Elementary School's Sleep Guidelines Go Viral

When it comes to parenting tips, the internet and social media have become the preferred mediums for sharing. While it's a great way to gather ideas and perspectives, it can also spark debates. Since nothing ever leaves the internet, those conversations can go on for years. That's kind of what happened to a Wisconsin Elementary School's viral chart telling parents when to put their kids to bed — which was posted two years ago, but still has parents talking.

The post was originally shared to the Wilson Elementary School's Facebook page in August of 2015. Since then, it's garnered more than 430,000 shares and more than 61,000 likes. The chart suggests bedtimes for children age 5-12 based on what time they need to be up in the morning (presumably to get ready for school). The question of how much sleep a child needs often confounds parents, and it doesn't necessarily get any easier for older kids, teens, and even adults. According to the Sleep Foundation, our sleep requirements change as we grow up, and can be altered temporarily by things like illness, travel, and stressful changes to our schedule. Toddlers and young children may also be prone to defying their bedtime, struggling with nightmares, or experience bedwetting, which can further complicate the goal of a good night's sleep, according to KidsHealth.

While the sleep chart posted by Wilson Elementary school was supported by many parents who commented on and shared the post, there were also a lot of parents who thought the guidelines were "unrealistic." While the chart may not provide for some of the aforementioned challenges parents encounter when trying to actually put their kid to bed at night, the suggestions aren't actually that off base from the National Sleep Foundation's recommendations for children in the elementary school age group.

While the National Sleep Foundation's recommendations are a little broader — they only say how many total hours of sleep each age group should be getting, rather than suggesting specific bedtimes — the chart that Wilson Elementary provides a practical interpretation of the guidelines. For example, when the NSF recommends that preschoolers get "10-13 hours of sleep per day," what does that mean for parents? It's often the case that kids in that age group are getting naps during the day, which would account for some of that sleep time. Nighttime routines at home can be more of a challenge, since parents are often trying to work around the sleep schedules of other family members (older children who may have later bedtimes, for instance).

While the chart is certainly not intended to be considered gospel, it does manage to put the National Sleep Foundation recommendations into a different perspective — and it also gave parents a forum to discuss some of the reasons why the recommendations are not always feasible. As one parent commented, "Here's an idea don't give my child four hours of homework and then maybe they'd be able to go to bed on time."