How much sleep do children need?

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Our friends at Dreams, Britain's leading bed experts, have a regular blog about sleep called Sleep Matters Club. It's full of handy tips and advice on how to get a better night's sleep - something that many foster carers long for and which many fostered children would benefit from.

The information below is taken from a Sleep Matters Club blog and looks at how much sleep children ideally need according to psychiatrist, physician, and brain expert Dr. Daniel Amen, author of Time for Bed Sleepyhead.

Dreams have also offered us some single bed mattress protectors which are available, for free, to foster carers on a first come, first served basis. See the end of the blog for more information.

How much sleep?

  • Babies: 12-18 hours. Newborns haven’t developed any circadian rhythms yet, so if your child is this age they do not need to adhere to a normal monophasic sleep cycle, and are likely to sleep and wake throughout the day.
  • Toddlers: 11-14 hours. When toddlers reach about 18 months old their nap times will decrease to once a day lasting about 1-3 hours. So increase their night-time sleep accordingly.
  • 3-5 years: up to 12 hours. At this age, difficulty maintaining sleep during the night is expected as there are further developments to their imagination and they commonly experience nightmares.
  • Primary school age: up to 11 hours. Although there is an increasing demand on the time of children of this age, an adequate amount of sleep is still essential for their growth.
  • Teenagers: up to 10 hours. Teenagers will need no more than 10 hours sleep a night, however do not go under the recommended 8 hours for adults.

Why do children need this much sleep?

The recommended hours may seem excessive, especially to us adults who can allow aspire for a meagre eight hours of sleep. However, these lengthy sleep cycles are very necessary for your child’s development. Dr. Daniel Amen explains this, saying:

We all know that getting a good night’s sleep is important. But, poor sleep does more than just make kids tired the next day, it can affect their developing brains. I often tell my patients and their parents that a lack of sleep can trigger depression, attention and learning problems, poor judgement and impulse control issues. Sleep is the prime time for growth hormones to be most effective in kids.

Sleep helps the brain refresh and maintain itself so one can function. Without sleep many of our body systems can fail to function properly. So it’s essential that your child’s brain be allowed to have enough time to develop during sleep.

Simply put, bodies that have more growing to do need more sleep and good sleep is crucial for your children’s growth and development.

Read more at Sleep Matters Club.​