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Sleep is So Important

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Sleep is an incredibly important factor to healthy development, but a large number of kids do not get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation in children can result in hyperactivity, inattention, impulsivity, oppositional behavior, moodiness, irritability, and difficulty waking up in the morning. Below is a list of the amount of sleep that is recommended for each age.


Amount of sleep needed by age

Newborns (0 to 3 months): 14 to 17 hours of sleep
Infants (4 to 11 months): 12 to 15 hours of sleep
Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours of sleep
Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours of sleep
School-aged children (6 to 13 years): 9 to 11 hours of sleep
Teenagers (14 to 17 years): 8 to 10 hours of sleep
Young adults (18 to 25 years): 7 to 9 hours of sleep
Adults (26 to 64 years): 7 to 9 hours of sleep
Older adults (65 years or older): 7 to 8 hours of sleep

I have heard a statement that some kids are mis-diagnosed with ADHD when they actually are sleep deprived, and as you can see, they have a lot of the same behaviors. Many children with Autism struggle with sleep problems, and their parents suffer along with them. It is easy for a therapist to say do this, or do that, but when you are living in the trenches with a child who has trouble sleeping, it is very hard to deal with life. I don’t have the perfect solution, but I do have some suggestions that have worked for some people.


Start early with a routine

First, you have to start the process of getting ready for bed early, and you have to be tied in and a part of the whole process. There needs to be a systematic and calming routine that builds up to bed time. There also needs to be plenty of time to complete the process while you are present in the process. For example, you can’t try to be reading a given bed time book while the T.V. is blaring in the same room. I will give an example of the routine that I used when my kids were little (and yes the times are correct for their young age).

Bath 6:00 pm
Lotion and pajamas 6:30 pm
Read books until 7:00 pm
Bedtime at 7:00 pm

The time adjusted a bit as their ages changed, but 7:00 is a perfect bed time for young children. They need a good 12 to 14 hours of sleep a night, so when they have to get up for parents to go to work and kids go to day care/preschool, etc. then 7:00 is perfect. Many people are shocked at the early bed times, but it really helps kids get a full night of sleep.

Turn off electronics

Very important is the wind down process. Technology is not your friend here, and all electronics should be turned off (except calm music and books). Loud TV blaring and video games are mentally stimulating and will hinder the bed time routine. Good things are baths, lotion (massage), some milk (or tiny snack), reading books, and listening to calm music. Some parents I have spoken to have incorporated calming essential oils into their bedtime routine as well with good results. Some of the oils that are said to have calming and relaxing qualities (and my daughter agrees) are Lavender and Cedarwood. For some kids who struggle with sleep, some parents swear by certain mixtures of essential oils. These would fit perfectly into the routine after bath time and give a little relaxing massage, which can put you in the sleeping mode on its own. (Essential oils need to be used safely and many should never be used with kids).

Listen to music or books.

My kids used to love listening to books on tape or music as they were falling asleep. This was a great way to transition between me reading their book, and then they could continue listening to another book without me there.

What kinds of things help your kids relax and get ready for bed in the evening?



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Tonya is a pediatric Occupational Therapist, and loves creating things to work on skills and solve problems.

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  1. So true! I think as parents we sometimes forget how important sleep is for children and adults to recharge. I too have seen many children exhibit behavior problems and lack of attention span due to a lack of sleep.
    The number one tip in my opinion is routine, routine, routine. Which is easier said than done at times. People’s lifestlyes are so hectic and sometimes we lose sight of what helps children develop. Sleep is one of those things that take a back seat to organized events and it should not.

  2. I totally agree. Our kids have an early bedtime as well, way earlier than their friends. And we almost always have reading time with them each night – yes, we as parents still read to our 12, 10 and 7 year old kids – they beg for it. (the 12 year old is reading Lord of the Rings with his dad, the 10 year old is about to start Narnia). And then they have 10 – 15 minutes of reading/looking at books on their own in the bedroom before lights out. It helps them to unwind after a long day.

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