conscious parentingSLEEP is the Answer! (Why Kids Need More Sleep)

1 April 2023

Do you sleep enough? Do your children sleep enough? How much sleep is enough sleep, and why does it matter? To answer these important questions, I am using the book called The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control over Their Lives (by William Stixrud & Ned Johnson), as a resource for this article.

Here’s what experts/scientific studies say:

  • if we need an alarm clock in the morning, we are sleep-deprived
  • if we need caffeine during the day to keep us going, we are sleep-deprived
  • 50% of teenagers sleep less than 7 hours per night (in USA)
  • brain scans of teenagers who sleep less than 7 hours per night look like those of people with narcolepsy
  • bad habits (eating late, eating junk food etc.) are exacerbated by lack of sleep
  • sleep is the equivalent of brain food
  • sleep “cleans” the brain every night, giving it a fresh start in the morning
  • 6 hours or less per night is considered sleep insufficiency

Sleep deprivation is a form of chronic stress.

  • higher cortisol levels, higher blood pressure, inflammation, impacts insulin production, decreases appetite, depression

Emotional control is dramatically impaired by sleep deprivation.

  • the amygdala becomes more reactive to triggers; sleep-deprived teens are more likely to use caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and drugs to cope with the mood swings

There is a strong correlation between insufficient sleep and depression.

  • the connections between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala are weakened when sleep is deficient, similar to PTSD, bipolar disorder, and other psychiatric syndromes

Sleep deprivation has physical implications.

  • obesity; weakened immune system

Sleep supports learning.

  • 6-th graders who slept 35 minutes less than usual for 3 consecutive nights, answered at 4-th grade level in a test compared to their peers ( this means that they lost the equivalent of 2 years of cognitive / academic power)
  • when we sleep, the brain replays experiences and information, which helps with long-term memory
  • sleep makes room for new learning the next day

How much sleep do kids need?

  • preschoolers: 10-13 hours per night
  • 6-13 year old: 9-11 hours per night
  • 14-17 year old: 8-10 hours per night
  • 18-25 year old: 7-9 hours per night

General tips to help your child get enough sleep:

  • bedtime routines are very important, from an early age
  • limit screen time, especially before bed time ( 1-2 hours before bed time, no more screens or smartphones)
  • dim the lights early on in the house; keep lights-off time consistent every night
  • cool down the house for optimal sleep
  • have dark curtains covering the windows
  • in some families, co-sleeping is welcome; you and your family knows best; there is no right or wrong rule about co-sleeping
  • spend 1:1 time with your child, including your teenager, during the day, and / or evening
  • create a culture of connection and togetherness in the evenings by cooking together, playing, walking, watching a movie ( together), and most importantly laughing together
  • pay attention to the tendency for isolation in tweens and teens ( I’ll be in my room!) and keep inviting them in, offering your availability to them ( your time, gentle presence, and genuine interest into their worlds; listen more, lecture less)
  • model the behavior you want to see in your child , such as : turn off your phone 1-2 hours before bed time; don’t use your phone at the dinner table or when you play together; ideally, no TV in your bedroom, or turn it off early; read a book before bed; write in your journal; etc

Speaking of tweens and teens: if your child is at this age, I highly recommend this 6-week class offered by my mentors from Hand in Hand Parenting. You will not regret it! Registration and more details: click here.


I am accepting 10 new clients for 1:1 sessions, for the summer months ( May, June, July and August). Contact me today to start working with me 1:1.