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What happens when your kids don’t get enough sleep

Getting the right amount of sleep is important for kids' developing body and wellbeing. Find out how much sleep your child needs and the impacts of not getting enough.

Teen girl in bed, rubbing head while holding her alarm clock

What’s so important about sleep?

For a growing body, sleep is just as important as nutrition and exercise

Sleep is vital for kids' health, development and wellbeing. It helps them to stay healthy, grow, learn and do well in school. Sleep physically restores their body, improves brain function and mental health.

Kids of all ages need to get enough sleep so they can play, learn and concentrate during the day.

Not getting enough sleep can have a big impact on your kids – behaviourally, mentally and emotionally.

Most kids don’t get enough sleep as they’re often busy with school, study, sporting and social commitments.

How much sleep is enough?

Recommended hours of sleep per night can vary depending on age. Every kid is different, so take time to figure out what works best for your kid. Here’s a guide:

  • 0-11 months - 14-18 hours per day

  • 1-2 years - 10-14 hours per day

  • 3-5 years - 10-13 hours per day

  • 6-13 years - 9-11 hours per day

  • 14-18 years - 8-9 hours per day

Sleep hours recommendations for infants, children and young people

The impact of lack of sleep

Sleep problems are some of the most common issues faced by parents. When kids don’t get enough sleep over a period of time, the following behavioural, cognitive (mental) and emotional symptoms can occur:

Sleepiness during the day

Issues with study and socialising

Irritability and moodiness

Shorter attention span

Lack of concentration and focus

Increased forgetfulness

Reduced academic performance

Lack of interest and motivation

Difficulty learning new information

Difficulty regulating emotions

Increased emotional problems

Reduced immune system

Poorer memory

Increased impulsivity

Higher risk of accidents

Increased stress

Higher levels of obesity

Decline in mental health

The challenge for kids and their parents is understanding the need for sleep and its restorative powers, and factoring into their busy lives sufficient time for good sleep.

How to support healthy sleep habits

There are many things you can do to help your kids get good quality sleep as often as possible:

Encourage exercise or time outdoors during the day
Turn off devices at least 30 minutes before bed
Talk to them about their sleep to figure out what might be impacting on it
Help them make sleep a priority! Ensure they’re getting enough sleep for their age
Set up a regular bedtime and waking up time – and help them stick with it!
Develop a regular bedtime routine – taking a bath, brushing teeth, then reading or meditation
Create a good sleeping environment (dark, cool, quiet and screen-free)
Avoid sugary foods and drinks a couple of hours before bed to help them rest easier

When sleep problems become a concern

If sleep problems persist it’s important to see a healthcare professional.

Many kids grow out of sleep problems. However if they’re a persistent concern, professional assistance might be needed to help you figure out what might be going on.

Need more support with this? Try calling Parentline in your state or territory.

This content was last reviewed 02/10/2019

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