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Kids and Sleep

When they’re infants, it’s middle-of-the-night feedings. When they’re toddlers and school-age, it’s awakening to give medicine or soothe them after a nightmare. It’s no surprise that, according to the latest poll from the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), more people without kids in the house rated their sleep as “excellent” or “very good,” compared to those with children.

Some sleep interruptions come with the territory. But experts say the best thing people can do for themselves and their children is to develop a regular sleep routine and bedtime for youngsters so that they get used to falling asleep on their own. Experts say school-age children generally need 9-12 hours of sleep each night.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, many childhood sleep problems are related to irregular sleep habits or anxiety about bedtime. Young children view bedtime as a time of separation, which is why they pull out a number of stalling tactics such as repeated requests for water and trips to the bathroom.

Here are some sleep tips for children from NSF:

  • Establish positive sleep habits with your child at an early age. Have a set sleep schedule for bedtime and waking. Keep the same schedule for weekdays and weekends. Know how much sleep is appropriate for your child’s age.
  • Establish a 20-30 minute nightly “calm-down” bedtime routine that can include taking a bath, putting on pajamas, reading, and other relaxing activities. TV viewing at bedtime, especially having a television set in the child’s bedroom, may interfere with falling asleep.

Other childhood sleep problems include talking during sleep and bedwetting. Many children get over sleep problems as they grow. But if you have concerns, talk with your child’s doctor.

If you think your child may have a sleep problem, ask yourself these five questions (remember them by the acronym “BEARS”):

  • Bedtime: Does my child have problems going to bed or falling asleep?
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness: Does my child seem sleepy or overtired during the day? Is he or she difficult to get up in the morning?
  • Awakenings: Does my child awaken frequently during the night or have trouble getting back to sleep?
  • Regularity and duration of sleep: What time does my child go to bed and get up on weekdays? Weekends? How much sleep does he or she get? Need?
  • Snoring: Does my child snore loudly? Does he or she seem to have breathing problems at night?
Kids and Sleep

Amy Bellows, Ph.D.

APA Reference
Bellows, A. (2020). Kids and Sleep. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 5, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 14 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.