Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

How Much Sleep Do Kids Need?

What time should children go to bed? My son naps during the day and sometimes stays up late in the evening, whereas my sister's son goes to bed earlier. Does bedtime make a difference?

Answer (Published 2/27/2014)

Good question. I discussed this issue at length with Sandy Newmark, M.D., a pediatrician at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine in San Francisco. He says that the most important thing is that "children get enough sleep, and that they have a regular bedtime. It is OK if some of that sleep is from a nap." However, Dr. Newmark also says that there is no easy answer to the question of whether allowing a late-night bedtime due to napping or other reasons is OK. He notes that some experts believe the amount of sleep obtained before midnight is important and that "we do know that sleep before midnight has a different proportion of REM and non-REM sleep than sleep after midnight." Our brains are active and we dream during REM sleep, while during deep non-REM sleep the body is busy increasing the blood supply to muscles and restoring energy. During the latter state, tissue growth and repair occur and hormones are released for growth and development.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Energy - If you are a parent or grandparent, you know that abundant energy is vital when it comes to keeping up with the kids. Certain supplements can help keep you energized, naturally - learn more, and get your free, personalized Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor Recommendation.

Dr. Newmark adds that "we evolved as a species to fall asleep after sundown, so it is probably better for children to have a relatively early bedtime. If your child is going to bed at nine o'clock instead of seven, I would say that is no problem. If he is going to bed at 10 or 11 p.m., I would try to make it a little earlier."

You may be interested to know that research from the U.K. published in November 2013 found that children with regular bedtimes, regardless of whether they were early or late, had fewer behavioral problems compared to kids whose bedtimes were irregular. In fact, the researchers from University College London found that the more years irregular bedtimes persisted, the more severe the kids' behavior problems were. They gathered their information by interviewing mothers when their children were ages three, five and seven. Both mothers and teachers completed questionnaires about behavioral problems. The researchers reported that almost 20 percent of three-year-olds had no regular bedtime, compared with 9.1 percent of five-year-olds and 8.2 percent of seven-year-olds.

Commenting on the findings, the study's lead author, Yvonne Kelly, a professor of epidemiology, said that "getting kids into a regular bedtime routine does appear to have important impacts on behavioral development," but she made the point that lots of things have beneficial effects and that regular bedtime is only one of them.

For the record, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) parents should expect preschoolers to sleep 11 to 13 hours per night and not expect most to nap after five years of age. The NSF notes that difficulty falling asleep and waking during the night are common in this age range and that with normal development of imagination, preschoolers commonly experience nighttime fears and nightmares. Sleepwalking and sleep terrors also peak during preschool years.

Kids aged five to 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night, but in this age range they also are dealing with increased demands on their time from homework, sports and other extracurricular activities, as well as television and computers, all of which can cause difficulty falling asleep, nightmares and sleep disruptions. The NSF warns that watching television close to bedtime has been associated with bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep, anxiety around sleep and sleeping fewer hours. What's more, the Foundation notes that poor or inadequate sleep in kids this age can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems such as hyperactivity, and cognitive problems that impact on their ability to learn in school.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Yvonne Kelly et al, "Changes in Bedtime Schedules and Behavioral Difficulties in 7 Year Old Children," Pediatrics, (doi: 10.1542/peds.2013-1906)

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here