Ah, summer time. For most school age kids, it’s a break from the hectic up-at-dawn mornings hurriedly getting ready for school. It also means more lax bedtimes, and if you are certifiably insane and willing to give up your evening quiet time (which I am not, can you tell?) it means your kids are up late. That’s great if they sleep in, but most do not. So how much sleep do kids really need? And how important is it to maintain a sleep schedule?
The answer to both is a lot, and very.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, kids ages 1-3 need 12-14 hours, ages 3-5 need 11-13 hours, and ages 5-10 need 10-11 hours. Kids desperately need these hours for both physical and mental development. Kids who don’t get enough sleep can have mood swings, behavioral problems, cognitive problems, and physical symptoms such as headaches. You know how awful, forgetful, and physically ill you feel when your newborn hasn’t let you sleep in weeks? That’s how your kids feel. Although instead of being a coffee guzzling zombie like you, they ramp up in activity and also in bad attitudes and behavior. Sadly, the NSF says about 30% of kids fall in this category of less sleep than what is recommended.
PubMed has a study published by the Japanese Society of Child Neurology that shows the long term effects of having an early bedtime. A large group (over 40,000) children were followed over a lengthy period of time and it was found that children that had an early and predictable bedtime at the age of two were much less likely to have attention and behavioral issues at age 8. There are literally hundreds of studies showing the positive effects of consistent and early bedtimes on children’s health, and I could type them out for days.
So even though you may not need to be up and at ‘em first thing in the morning, try to maintain your child’s sleep routine throughout the summer. Vacations and other adventures are always going to throw a loop into your routine, but for the most part try to keep it within the norm. The recommended bedtime for elementary aged kids and younger surprisingly isn’t when-they-collapse-on-the-floor-o’clock. It’s between 7-8pm. My kids are in bed between 7 and 7:30. Yes, it’s still light out in the summer. Black out curtains work wonders! They are healthy and well rested, and I get a few peaceful hours to myself in the evenings after being tortured playing with them all day. Everyone wins.
Try to have the same routine every evening. Rooms should be nice and dark, nice and cool, and kids shouldn’t have TVs in their rooms (so basically nice and boring). Turn off electronics an hour before bedtime. Try to avoid school and sports functions that last up till bedtime.
So yeah, I get a lot of flack for peacing out early from social functions and whatnot because my kids have to go to bed. Whatever though, it’s science ya’ll. Science and sanity. My two favorite things.