Subscribe to blog via RSS

Search Blog

Of course parents don’t get enough sleep. But what about our kids?

Categories: Hacking Life, Parenting, The Juggle


I don’t know any parents who really expect to feel well rested while their kids are young. In fact, once you become a parent (whether through birth, adoption, or marriage), the phrase “a good night’s sleep” takes on a totally different meaning.

As our kids get older, we assume that they’re getting plenty of sleep. But how much sleep do they really need? And what happens if they don’t get it?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, children age 5 to 12 need about 10 hours of sleep within a 24-hour period. (Preschoolers should get 11 to 13, toddlers need 12 to 14, and babies need even more.)

This was news to me. It was also news to my 2 1/2-year-old son, who has decided that sleep is for sissies and he’s going to make sure I don’t get any either, if he can help it. But his attention span has dwindled to what I imagine a gnat’s might be like, and so we’ve been trying to put him to bed earlier, to see if a little extra sleep will help him.

We might be on the right track. It’s hard to tell, given that he’s a 2-year-old, but even so: “Sleep-deprived kids are unable to learn,” Cornell psychology professor James B. Maas, Ph.D., a leading sleep researcher and author of Power Sleep, points out at “Memory, concentration, communication skills as well as critical and creative thinking are all adversely affected.”

A child who is not getting enough sleep may not appear to be tired. My little guy practically vibrates with energy when he’s overtired (and then crashes the instant he’s still for more than three seconds). According to the National Sleep Foundation, “when sleep is poor, children won’t necessarily look sleepy during the day. Sometimes they have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) symptoms: inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. They need to create a stimulating environment to keep themselves awake, because they need to stay awake to learn. They will do anything to change their environment, including displaying aggressive behavior.”

What can you do about it? Start by establishing a bedtime routine at an early age. If both parents work outside the home, it can be tempting to let a little kid stay up later in order to get some play time with Daddy or Mommy but, unless your preschooler is taking a really long nap during the day, or sleeping in every morning, the lack of sleep does her more harm than good.

What time do your kids go to bed? How much sleep do they get (and, just for fun, how does that compare to the number of hours you get to snooze)?

’s the bedtime routine like at your house? Are your kids getting enough sleep?

Subscribe to blog via RSS
Share this on:

6 comments so far...

  • Ah, sleep. My 3 year old definitely acts up when she hasn’t had enough sleep. She is easily angered, prone to whining and fits and certainly can’t communicate as she would like. But naps are a thing of the past and getting her in bed at 7:30 happens but she won’t fall asleep until 10.

    Last winter, when the girls were 2&3, going on 3&4, I was putting them to bed at 6:30. It was lovely. 7:30 is my goal now that school is around the corner. Summer has seen some late nights and, admittedly, laziness on my part. I mean, 4.5 years of bedtime routine has me wanting a break now and again.

    As for my sleep, I keep telling myself I should go to bed soon after they do but that doesn’t happen either. It’s such a great time to work without interruptions or to chill with hubby.

    Mandy Nelson  |  August 17th, 2009 at 7:55 am

  • My kids (age 2.5) normally go to bed between 8:30-9, wake themselves up around 7-ish, and nap for an average of 2 hours. They go to bed easily, although they sometimes play in their room during naptime. I now tell them that if they want to do X fun thing in the afternoon/evening, they must sleep during naptime. Soon they will be going to “school” where I assume peer pressure will make them nap.

    I don’t get nearly as much sleep because I work etc. until at least 12am. Since I work at home at a table in my bedroom, if I’m really tired and fatigued, I’ll sometimes lie down “for a minute to rest my back” and end up napping. That’s probably a factor in keeping my sanity.

    Folks whose kids fight bedtime might try just letting their kids have their lovey/pillow/blanket and wander around until they fall asleep on their own. They might get more sleep that way. Seems worth a try rather than losing hours every day on the bedtime struggle.

    SKL  |  August 17th, 2009 at 9:58 am

  • Our kids are in bed between 8.30 and 9 pm and are up between 6 and 7 am.

    Husband and I have become better in sleeping except on weekends as we have found that we are groggier otherwise! We are in bed by 10 pm and get up by 5 - 5.30 am on weekdays.

    Lakshmi  |  August 17th, 2009 at 10:03 am

  • We’re paranoid about getting our girls (3.5 and 16 months) enough sleep. We get them to bed between 6:30 and 7pm and they wake up at 6am to get ready for day care.

    We’ve had them on this schedule since they’ve been able to be on a schedule, and it’s seemed to work for everyone so far.

    Jason  |  August 17th, 2009 at 10:19 am

  • My kids generally get 10+ hours of sleep - they go to bed around 9, and wake up somewhere between 7-7:30 on their own. I’m fortunate that they are also quite adaptable - if they stay up late, they sleep in; if we get them up early for something, they will nap or go to bed earlier. They’ve pretty much always been good sleepers (other than the period that the little one suffered constant ear infections and didn’t sleep at all). I’m lucky, I know!

    a mom  |  August 17th, 2009 at 10:21 am

  • My 7 yr old gets anxious when 8pm rolls around and she’s not in bed yet. So she gets about 10 hours of sleep (we get up between 6 & 6:30). I am trying to get to bed by 11pm; that gives me 7-71/2 hours (71/2 is what I wake up in consistently with no alarms when I’m not sleep deprived).

    Mich  |  August 18th, 2009 at 2:09 pm