How Much Sleep Does Your Child Need? A New Study Shows It Might Be Less Than You Think

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Sleep. For most parents out there, it's basically an obsession. Because being a parent is incredibly exhausting, sure, but also because we worry about how sleep is affecting our kids. Are they getting enough? Do they need more? Luckily, for those of you wondering how much sleep your kid needs, a new study might have some definitive answers for you.

We all know that proper sleep greatly affects the way our children develop, both emotionally and physically. Dr. Marc Weissbluth wrote about the critical function of a child's sleep in his book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child:

Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm. Every night and at every nap, sleep recharges the brain's battery. Sleeping well increases brainpower just as weight lifting builds stronger muscles, because sleeping well increases your attention span and allows you to be physically relaxed and mentally alert at the same time. Then you are at your personal best.

But how much sleep does your child need to reach their own "personal best"? According to previous guidelines set by the pediatric community, children aged three to five needed 11 to 13 hours, five to ten-year-olds needed 10 to 11 hours, and adolescents aged 10 and up needed between eight-and-a-half to 10 hours of sleep a night to get the full benefits of a good night's sleep.

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A new study by Brigham Young University found that older kids might not actually need as much sleep as we thought. They analyzed over 2,000 school-aged children and found that the older children got, the less sleep they needed to perform well academically. Kids between 10 and 12-years-old only needed between eight and nine-and-a-half hours of sleep to perform well, while teenagers needed around seven hours of sleep per night.

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Another study released in the Pediatrics journal, “Never Enough Sleep: A Brief History of Sleep Recommendations for Children”, found that the sleep habits of children have changed so much over the last century that any sleep guidelines might be less than realistic. This study looked at sleep literature from the past three centuries and surmised that “there is almost no empirical evidence for the optimal sleep duration for children.” This study also noted that history has been repeating itself when it comes to sleep recommendations for children in every single generation:

Inadequate sleep was seen as a consequence of “modern life,” associated with technologies of the time. No matter how much sleep children are getting, it has always been assumed that they need more.

So essentially, every generation has worried that their children aren't getting the right amount of sleep. Kids need less sleep as they grow older.

And parents of toddlers are never getting enough sleep. This is not according to a study... just according to me.