LUPINSKI: How much sleep do kids really need?

Health & Fitness column

Kirsten Lupinski

Kirsten Lupinski

Now that we have all come to the realization that summer is quickly coming to an end and school is back in full swing, we need to get out of summer mode and back to school mode. I do agree that is went way to fast and on a personal note with my boys starting kindergarten this year, I was not ready for summer to end. But here we are and I want to share a few tips to get us back into the groove.

One of the biggest struggles that I am currently facing and I am sure many of you are sharing in this, trying to convince my kids to go to bed earlier in order to get up and be ready for the start of school. I said a few weeks before school actually started that I was going to gradually put them to bed earlier and earlier. Well, that didn’t really turn out like I planned and now I am still fighting with them to get to bed so I don’t have to wake them up in the morning and rush out the door. There is no denying that kids are more productive, happier and healthier if they get an adequate amount of sleep.

The following are recommendations from WebMD as to how much sleep children really do need. Ages 3-6, need 10-12 hours; ages 7-12 need 10-11 hours; ages 12-18 need right-nine hours of sleep per night. It is recommended that children under the age of 6 go to bed between 7 and 9 p.m. and between the ages 7 and 12 to go to bed around 9 p.m. in order to be awake and alert in the morning.

You can ask any teacher and they will be able to tell you the kids that have gotten enough sleep the night before. It is apparent in a child’s daily functioning if their body has gotten the needed sleep in order to reach their highest potential not only in academics, but also in other activities they participate in (sports, music, arts).

I know I am guilty of letting a consistent bedtime go by the wayside, but research has shown that the best way to get to bed at a decent time that ensures kids will have the recommended amount of sleep is to stick to a consistent bedtime. Not only is the time at which your kids go to bed important, but how you do it is just as important. Keeping a consistent bedtime routine will enable your kids to know what to expect each night and give them the time to wind down and fall asleep.

A typical routine may consist of taking a bath/shower, getting into their pajamas (that you let them pick out), brushing their teeth, reading a story or two and putting them to bed. If you remember when you child was an infant and the recommendation was to just let them learn to fall asleep by themselves. This holds true for school age kids too, go through the routine, tell them goodnight, tuck them in and leave the room. In addition, if it is possible to make sure the room is dark and a comfortable temperature will only increase their chances of falling asleep.

I am not saying this is something that will happen overnight, but kids do like routines and when they can participate (pick out their books or pajamas) it gives them ownership of bedtime and with our fingers crossed a good night’s sleep. Good Luck!

Dr. Kirsten Lupinski is an assistant professor at Albany State University in the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department. She has a B.S. in Nutrition from the University of North Carolina, an M.S. in Health Education from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate in Education from the University of Cincinnati. She has worked in the health education field in various capacities (corporate health, community health, college health and wellness and university education) for more than 15 years. She and her husband have three young children (5-year-old twin sons and a 2-year-old daughter).