How much sleep does a child need?

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One of the most common questions many parents often wonder and ask is “How much sleep does my child needs?”

If you are hoping for a magic number like 7 hours, 8 hours or 9 hours, you will be disappointed. The real answer is “It depends on your child”.

All humans are different. For example, some of us need to eat a lot because we have a higher metabolic rate and others may just eat very little and yet continue to put on weight because they are of smaller build and burn less energy. Similarly for sleeping, different children need different amount of sleep.

What is more important as parents is for you to observe if your child has sufficient sleep. The below are some of the indicators that will help you to look out for signs that your child does not have enough sleep.

1) You have difficulty in waking your child up in the morning.
2) Your child is sleepy in class (teachers may have feedback to you on this issue or during the Parent-Teacher meeting).
3) Your child falls down regularly in school because he/she accidentally tripped due to lack of attention.
4) Your child has difficulty understanding his/her lessons and memorising words (e.g. spelling tests).
5) Your child always complain he/she is tired and skipping meals to sleep.
6) Your child demonstrates lack of energy in his/her activities (e.g. he/she sits at the side and tries to sleep instead of participating in family discussions).

If you observe your child is having one or more of the indicators above, it is likely your child does not have enough sleep and you will need to let your child sleep more, either by setting a time for him/her to have a short afternoon nap (about 30 minutes to an hour) or sleep early at night for example by 9pm especially if your child goes to school in the mornings.

Sleeping is very important for your child as during sleep, the mind will process what was learnt on that day and the body will repair itself. Insufficient sleep may result in poor school results and also falling sick more often.

If your child is lacking of sleep, it is better for your child to sleep more than to study more, as his/her mind will not be able to process the new information due to lack of sleep.

Your child can also “pay off the sleep debt” during the weekends by sleeping more. Many researches have shown that if your child does not have enough sleep in the weekdays, your child can sleep more during the weekends to catch up with the “sleep debt” and this will help your child to recover better. It is still best to cultivate the good habit of making your child sleeps early and have enough of sleep in order to function better during the day. 

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