How much sleep does your child need?

Picture: TSPL
Picture: TSPL
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It is the billion dollar question for any parent battling to get their children to go to bed: how much sleep does a child really need?

The recommendations range from up to 16 hours daily for babies to at least eight hours for teens. They come from a panel of experts and give parents fresh ammunition for when their children blame them for strict bedtimes.

While tiny babies need to sleep for two thirds of the day, including naps, teenagers may be able to get by on as little as eight hours a night - the same amount as recommended for adults.

The researchers also warned that all electronic screens should be turned off 30 minutes before bedtime and that TVs, computers and other screens should not be allowed in children’s bedrooms.

The guidelines, from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, encompass recommendations that the American Academy of Pediatrics has made at different times for different ages.

The researchers said: “Healthy sleep requires adequate duration, appropriate timing, good quality, regularity, and the absence of sleep disturbances or disorders.

“Not getting enough sleep each night is associated with an increase in injuries, hypertension, obesity and depression, especially for teens who may experience increased risk of self-harm or suicidal thoughts.”

Linda Russell, who runs sleep consultancy The Sleep Lady in Edinburgh, said: “Parents get really tangled up about sleep, what good sleep is and what it means. I think the guidelines are spot on. But parents need to start good sleep habits and then you will have a child who is a good sleeper -such as a long wind down time for a bedtime routine and making sure TVs and screens are switched off long before bedtime.”

“However, parents shouldn’t get too worried about exact times: if your child is happy go lucky, eating well, growing well and making friends then they are probably getting enough sleep. If they are argumentative and unhappy then they are tired and need more sleep.”

According to the guidelines, adequate sleep is linked with improved attention, behavior, learning, mental and physical health at every age covered. Meanwhile, insufficient sleep increases risks for obesity, diabetes, accidents, depression and in teens, self-harm including suicide attempts.

However, the report found that children who regularly sleep more than is recommended for their age group also may have a higher risk of adverse health outcomes, including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and mental health problems.

The recommendations, which were published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, are based on a review of scientific evidence on sleep duration and health.