Sleep or lack of sleep, definitely does impact the academic performance of a child or adolescent. In the last seven years more than 30 studies have demonstrated that shortened total sleep time, erratic sleep/wake schedules, fragmented sleep, late bedtimes and rise times and poor sleep quality are associated with poorer school performances (Buckhalt, Wolfson, & El-Sheikh, 2009). These school outcomes results have included teacher ratings, grades, individual tests of neurocognitive functioning and comprehensive norm-referenced intelligence batteries (Buckhalt et al, 2009).
Therefore it’s important to set your child up with good sleep habits early on. But what is normal sleep and how many wakes during the night is normal?
Below are guidelines from the Boston Pediatric Sleep Association. You’ll notice these amounts are much lower than many of the guidelines you’ll find online or you pop psychology sleep books. Sleep is based on statistical averages. You have the mean or average number and then you have the outlying number. Often websites and books posts the outlying sleep amounts which are much higher but only about 1% of the population can actually do that much sleep. When you are trying to get your child to do more sleep than they biologically can it will results in very poor sleep that includes night wakings for up to 2 hours, early morning waking around 4:30am or 5:00am or a young child’s nap will disappear.
From about 16 weeks to about 3.5 years or 4 years children only need about 9.25 to 10 hours of sleep at night. Depending on the child’s age they will need between 2 ¾ hours in naps for a six month old and as they get older their night time sleep will stay the same but their nap sleep amounts shrink. So a 12 months old baby needs only about 9 ¼ to 10 hours at night and about 2 hours in naps. By age 4 a child has dropped their nap and will do about 11 hours at night.
What is Normal?
Also note from birth to 16 weeks a child will wake frequently from 1 to 5 times a night. From 16 weeks to 6 months up to 2 times a night. Then from 6 months to 9 months 0 to 1 times during the night. After 9 months a child should no longer be waking for any reason especially feeding. Continuing to feed will produce a very tired child in the morning and feeding during the night is a sign of a problem at night.
If your child is having a hard time waking up in the morning, ask yourself if you are have a consistent bedtime 7 days a week. If you are constantly shifting the bedtimes or wakes times during the week or your child goes to bed later on the weekend, this shifts the wake time. Also if your child doesn’t know how to fall asleep 100% on their own, they will waking during the night anywhere from one to 5 times needing assistance from the parent in the form of patting, bouncing, feeding or rocking. So how you put your child to sleep can cause night waking and if you child wakes a lot during the night they will have a hard time getting up in the morning. A lot of night waking will result in a tired child.
What can you do?
What can you as parents do? Make sure that you establish good sleep hygiene at an early age. This means having a regular bedtime that is age appropriate and respects the amount of time the child needs to spend in bed. Establish a consistent and repeatable bedtime routine at a young age so that going to bed is fun and not a battle. Make sure your child knows how to fall asleep unassisted so that by one year of age they are sleep though the night without waking (sleeping through the night is considered 9 ½ hours in a row). Finally control the wake time in the morning. By controlling the waking time in the morning your naps and bedtime will become predicable.
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