Sleep Plays a Huge Role in Academic Success – Are Your Kids Going To Bed Early Enough?

Sleep Plays a Huge Role in Academic Success - Are Your Kids Going To Bed Early Enough?

Many of us have been out of our normal routines and structured schedules for over six months now. Our children are also experiencing this. The rules may have gotten a bit hazy during quarantine – perhaps tablet limits have gone out the window and ice cream for dinner is now a thing. Sleep patterns have also been disrupted in many families. As brick and mortar classrooms continue reopening, it’s a good time to calculate how much sleep children need according to their age and establish solid bedtime routines.

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How much sleep do children need?

While the exact time varies from child to child, The National Sleep Foundation has researched the average amount of time children need by age.

  • Birth to three months: 14 – 17 hours
  • Four to 11 months: 12 – 15 hours
  • Ages one to two: 11 – 14 hours
  • Ages three to five: 10 – 13 hours
  • Ages six to 13: 9 – 11 hours
  • Ages 14 – 17: 8 – 10 hours

What time should my child go to sleep?

We made it easy for you! Here’s a chart to help you calculate the appropriate bedtime to make sure your child gets enough rest based on when they need to wake up. Simply find your child’s age and the wake-up time to see when they need to be asleep for the right amount of slumber. Then figure in the amount of time required for the bedtime routine. For example, if your six year old needs to be up at 7 a.m. they need to go to sleep at 8 p.m. If they typically need half of an hour of snacks, snuggles, and stories before falling asleep, you’ll know to start the bedtime routine at 7:30 p.m.

Side effects of not getting enough sleep

So now you know how much sleep children need, but it’s also important to understand why.

Lack of sleep may cause:

  • Irritability
  • Moodiness
  • Lethargy 
  • Increased stress 
  • Forgetfulness
  • Blurred vision 
  • Low motivation
  • Lack of interest in participating in activities 
  • Learning and concentration difficulties
  • Mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression

Children who get enough sleep are more likely to: 

  • Concentrate and stay on task longer
  • Be more creative
  • Be better at problem-solving 
  • Have more energy
  • Have better relationships with others
  • Have higher grades and be able to learn and retain information better
  • Make more positive decisions 

Tips for helping children get enough sleep

Sleep expert Elizabeth Pantley, author of the best selling “No Cry Solution” series, offers the following suggestions for helping children get on a regular sleep schedule. 

1. Maintain consistent schedules for both bedtime and waking up.

Our biological clocks are powerful. Establishing consistent times to go to bed and wake up “sets” your child’s biological clock. Once you determine how much sleep children need, you can calculate when they need to go to bed and wake up. Consistency is crucial for keeping that clock running efficiently. Most children experience better and longer sleep when they go to bed earlier.

2. Bring on the darkness.

Darkness triggers an increase in the body’s natural sleep hormone. Help it along by dimming the lights an hour before bedtime or having your child hang out in a room with blackout curtains. 

3. Embrace the light!

In the same way that darkness helps the body prepare for sleep, light tells the body it’s time to wake up and start the day! Open the curtains in your child’s room to let the sunshine push their natural “GO!” button. 

4. Have a consistent bedtime routine.

A calm, peaceful routine is comforting. A bedtime routine helps transition into a relaxed state that will encourage sleep. Bedtime routines are great for parents who are also tired at the end of the day because they can be done on autopilot. It could be as simple as bath, pajamas, brush teeth, and a story in bed. The key is consistency – the same routine at the time each night. 

5. Make it cozy.

We all sleep better on a comfortable mattress in an environment we’re comfortable in. Some children may not sleep well in a cluttered room, so tidying up can be part of the bedtime routine. Other children are most comfortable with a fan, white noise, favorite pajamas, a beloved stuffed animal, or favorite blanket. 

6. Nutrition matters.

Carbs typically have a calming effect on the body, while foods high in protein and sugar provide energy making it more difficult to fall asleep when eaten too close to bedtime. Good bedtime snacks include low-sugar oatmeal, toast with peanut butter, a banana, or yogurt. Vitamin deficiencies due to a diet high in unhealthy food choices can also disrupt sleep. A balanced diet of healthy foods will help children sleep better. 

7. Encourage activity in the day.

Active children fall asleep faster. They also sleep longer, have a better quality of sleep, and wake up refreshed. It’s important to stop all physical activity at least an hour before bedtime, though, so the body has time to wind down. 

8. Teach children relaxation techniques.

Some kids have trouble shutting their brains off once they get into bed, even with consistent bedtime routines. Guided meditation is a good way to help them learn to quiet their brains enough to drift off to sleep. Here are some great meditation and mindfulness apps

Getting enough quality sleep is important for everyone – children and adults. Most of these tips work great for adults, too. And when children get enough sleep, parents are more likely to be more relaxed and get better sleep, too. Also, your child’s teacher will be thankful for a well-rested student! It’s a win for everyone.


Sleep Plays a Huge Role in Academic Success - Are Your Kids Going To Bed Early Enough?

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Rachael Moshman
Rachael Moshman, M.Ed., an editor at Bored Teachers, is a mom, educator, writer, and advocate for self-confidence. She's been a teacher in classrooms of infants through adult college students. She loves pizza, Netflix and yoga. Connect with her at rachael.m@boredteachers.com
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