Sleep Problems in Children          Developmental Disorders          Autism          Parenting Issues
If your child refuses going to sleep at night, remember this:  It is your responsibility to put your child to bed,
but it is your child’s responsibility to go to sleep. Put your child to bed at a reasonable time after a
reasonable bedtime routine. Have clear rules (stay in bed, no eating, etc.). Then, if your child doesn’t fall
asleep, it may be that they don’t need as much sleep.  If they stay awake late, and then want to sleep late in
the morning, wake them up 15 minutes to a half hour earlier every morning until they are falling asleep at the
time you want at night. Parents should discuss the bedtime routine during the day so that the child knows
what to expect at night. Then stick with it each night. If kids know what to expect, then they'll usually obey.

School-age Children and Sleep

School-aged children need somewhere between 10 and 11 hours of sleep at night. At this age, kids usually
start a trend toward becoming more and more sleep deprived. As the parents, you will need to help figure
out how much sleep your child needs.

Your child is getting the right amount of sleep if they:
•        Can fall asleep within 15 to 30 minutes.
•        Can wake up easily at the time they need to get up and don't need you to keep trying to get them up.
•        Are awake and alert all day, and don't need a nap during the day. Check with your child’s teacher and
make sure your child is able to stay awake and alert during school.

If your child can go to bed, fall asleep easily, wake up easily, and not be tired during the day, then they're
getting enough sleep.

Complaints about Bed Times and Waking Up

Is your child complaining about a bedtime that’s earlier than their friends’ bedtimes, and saying that
everyone else gets to stay up later?  Let them know that every child is different and that this is their
bedtime.  Tell your kid that you’re keeping their bedtime at the right time for them because it’s healthy.
They’ll feel better during the day if they sleep well at night. A recent study surveyed kindergarten through
fourth grade kids and their parents and teachers about the children’s sleep. Teachers reported that about
10% of the kids were falling asleep in school. Like us adults, many of our school-age kids are sleep
deprived. Remember, letting kids stay up later isn’t doing them a favor.

Sleep helps our body and brain develop and grow.

Our brain needs sleep so we can:

•        Remember what they learned
•        Pay attention and concentrate
•        Solve problems and think of new ideas

Our body needs sleep so we can:

•        Muscles, bones and skin can grow
•        Muscles, skin and other parts can fix injuries
•        The body can stay healthy and fight sickness

Kids ages 5 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night.

When children get enough sleep they can

•        Pay attention better in school
•        Be creative and think of new ideas
•        Fight sickness so they can stay healthy
•        Be in a good mood
•        Get along with friends and family
•        Solve problems better

Without enough sleep children can:

•        Forget what they learned
•        Have trouble making good choices
•        Be grumpy and in a bad mood
•        Have trouble playing games and sports
•        Be less patient with brothers, sisters, and friends
•        Have trouble listening to parents and teachers

How can parents tell if their child is sleep deprived?  How much sleep do kids need?  
Below are the recommended hours of sleep needed for the appropriate age.

•        5 – 7 years of age should be getting 11 hours of sleep
•        8 – 9 years of age should be getting 10 to 11 hours of sleep
•        10 – 11 years of age should be getting 10 hours of sleep
•        12 – 13 years of age should be getting 9.5 - 10 hours of sleep
*Some kids will need more or less sleep, and differ in how they nap.  

Different individuals need different amounts of sleep.  Keep in mind that charts list the average amount of
sleep for each age group and are just averages.  These are not exact numbers.  The best way to tell if your
child is getting enough sleep is to look at how they act while they are awake.  Here are some signs to
consider about how much sleep is enough.

If your child’s poor sleep is causing daytime problems, then they are sleep deprived.

Ask yourself these questions:

•        Does your child take a nap after school?
•        Do you have to wake your child up almost every morning?
•        Does your child seem overtired, cranky, irritable, aggressive, over-emotional, hyperactive, or have
trouble thinking during the day?
•        On some nights, does your child “crash” much earlier than their usual bedtime?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, your child may not be getting enough sleep. We live in a very
sleep deprived society.  Sleep deprived children (and adults) have more trouble controlling their emotions.  
The part of the brain that helps us to control our actions and our response to feelings is affected greatly by
lack of sleep.  Not getting enough sleep can lead to all kinds of problems, such as behavior problems,
attention problems, and not doing well in school. Kids who don't get enough sleep are also more likely to
hurt themselves.

Television and Sleep Problems in Children

Sleep areas that appear to be affected most consistently by television were bedtime resistance, sleep onset
delay, and anxiety around sleep, followed by shortened sleep duration. In particular, the presence of a
television set in the child's bedroom may be overlooked, but an important, contributor to sleep problems in
school children.

Clinical experience with both adults and children with sleep problems strongly implicates television-viewing
habits as a potentially significant influence on sleep behavior. For example, a retrospective chart review of
patients evaluated in our Pediatric Sleep Disorders Clinic revealed that television-viewing habits (such as
falling asleep in front of the television) were mentioned specifically by parents as contributing to sleep
problems in less than 25% of children diagnosed with behavioral sleep disorders. And sleep onset association
sleep disorders. There are a number of theoretic ways in which television-viewing habits could have this
impact on sleep. Television viewing may simply serve to disrupt sleep time, thus shortening sleep duration to
inappropriate limits.

Sleeping Techniques

There are different reasons children have trouble sleeping, and some different expert opinions on how to
help them.  Your family should learn about the various approaches, and decide what feels most comfortable
for you and for your child.  Different approaches may work better or worse for different children in
different families. If you feel you or your child is just too distressed by a given method, try something else
more comfortable for you.  For older children, you can put a foam mattress and sleeping bag on the floor
near your bed, so they can come in and sleep near you if they need nighttime reassurance.   

Sleeping Tips

•        Make sure your child’s bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet.
•        Have your child exercise during the day. Running and playing at least 3 hours before bed helps the
body get ready for sleep.
•        Try to put your child to bed at the same time every night. The body gets used to a schedule and will
be ready to sleep.
•        Avoid big meals before bedtime. Drinking a warm glass of milk or a light healthy snack like a fruit
•        Don’t’ allow your child to drink sodas with caffeine, especially in the afternoon and at night.
•        Have a bedtime routine. Have your child do some relaxing things before bed each night, like taking a
warm shower, reading, or listening to quiet music.