During different ages of childhood, children will require different lengths of sleep and the time when children sleep also matters.
Typically, a child below 1 year of age would require about 14 to 18 hours of sleep per day. Newborns would require the most, about 16-18 hours a day, but their sleep durations are usually about 2 to 4 hour at a time. This is because newborns have not developed a mature biological sleep-wake clock (circadian rhythm). By about 6 months of age, infants would pretty much sleep through the night with naps during the day. Parents generally like to put infants to bed and ‘help’ them fall asleep. However, parents should allow infants to fall asleep independently.
Toddlers, 1 to 3 years of age, require about 12 to 14 hours of sleep per day and they should be in bed between 6.30pm to 8.30pm. Preschoolers (3 to 6 years) on the other hand need about 10 to 13 hours of sleep per day with bedtimes between 6.30pm to 9pm. A consistent and appealing bedtime routine should always be established.
Even with greater demands at school and homework, school-going children 7 to 12 years of age should still have 10 to 11 hours of sleep per day. Hence, parents would need to work backwards to determine the bedtimes based on the time the child needs to be awake for school. Generally, bedtimes should be between 7.30pm to 9.30pm.
A good night’s sleep is just as important as eating healthy and exercise for the development of children. During sleep, growth hormone (GH) levels are increased promoting growth in children. When children do not get sufficient sleep, they tend to be overly active, easily irritable, fussy and have poor concentration. The next time your child displays the above characteristics, think if your child is sleep deprived. When children pass their bedtimes, they tend to get ‘hyper’ because their body will produce stimulating hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. In addition, the hormones also result in poor quality sleep and you will find your child waking up several times through the night.
So the next time you decide to bring your child out for a late night supper with you or a night out with your friends, do consider if it is worth putting your child’s body through all that ‘stress’.