Question:

I have heard varying studies on the amount of sleep that kids, and even adults, need to function in the day.  My two remaining children are not morning people unless there is something they really want to do!  I really think they may need more sleep. In contemplating how to make this year go more smoothly, I have come to the conclusion that our mornings need to be less stressful.  I would love to hear any input on how much sleep kids need.  I have a 10-year-old daughter and a 17-1/2-year-old son who are still at home.  When we are on a break my daughter will sleep till 11:00 a.m. or so in the morning, if I don't wake her up.  This would be about 11 hours or more of sleep since we do not go to bed early during breaks usually.  She has slept late from day one.  She would scare me half to death when she was an infant because she slept so late.  Do you all think she is just a person who needs a lot of sleep?  It seems like she is still "grumpy" even if she does sleep in.  Just not a morning person or does she need an attitude adjustment?  My son is hard to get up also.  He will get up but move to the couch and fall asleep again.  Seems like the majority of my morning is spent saying "Get up!"

From a Sister in Christ:

Thoughts from a mean mom:

  1. Individuals have different needs for amounts of sleep, night owl/lark tendencies, and periods of peak/low energy.  That’s ok.
  2. That said, individuals must operate in the 9-5-ish world.
  3. Therefore, individuals must adapt.
  4. Parents should determine the time in the morning when family members need to be ready to begin whatever the day brings – attending church services, piano lessons, support group activities, starting schoolwork/housework, attendance at family devotions, etc.
  5. Parents of younger children should “count back” to figure out an appropriate rising time for each child based on the above.
  6. Children who are able to tell time and set an alarm clock are responsible for getting themselves up at their rising time.  Parents can help strategize with their children to plan ways to help them accomplish this responsibility – going to sleep early enough at night, placing the alarm clock across the room, developing a getting-up routine, etc.
  7. Children who act irresponsibly about getting up suffer consequences.

At our house, during the school year, we say everyone must be “up and cheerful” at 7 a.m.  Everyone is to be downstairs for breakfast by 7:30 a.m. with clothes on his body and room tidied.  Those who aren’t in the kitchen by 7:30 a.m. miss breakfast. Most days, we have devotions while we eat breakfast and everyone is expected to be present for that (not Dad – he’s at work).  We determined this getting-up time years ago because most of the time if we have to go somewhere we leave around 9 a.m.  This gives us 2 hours to get up, clean up, eat, and do a few daily things like chores and piano practice.  One time a week we have piano lessons at 8 a.m., so this getting-up time still works for that, though we are a little rushed.  In the summer, most days the kids can sleep til 8 a.m. and we just shift breakfast to 8:30 a.m. and so on.

Of our three children, one is a night owl, one is a lark who now in his teen years (at the peak of his sleeping ability, Garrison Keillor says) doesn’t get up at 6 a.m. as much as he used to naturally do, and one was a child who used to ask for his nap and never fusses about his 9 p.m. bedtime.  At varying times, and for reasons beyond getting-up issues, I’m sure, they probably wish they lived in a different family, so there’s my caveat to all the above.

Answer:

Each individual's need for sleep varies greatly, but on average, a child needs about 9 hours of sleep and an adult needs 8 hours and 20 minutes. During the teenage years, particularly when growth is occurring, the average child needs about 60 minutes more sleep than an adult. However, it is also during the teenage years that commitments and obligations rise making available sleep-time less. Typically this leads to the infamous "crash" time on the weekends or some other day when there are no commitments. The body attempts to catch up on some of its deprived sleep.

In recent years, several studies learned that teenager's internal clocks also shift -- as if they are experiencing jet lag while staying in the same time zone. They can go to bed at the usual time, but they just can't fall asleep. Thus they tend to drift toward staying up later, but of course, they still need extra sleep which means they wake later as well. I remember it happening to me when I was in high school and college and I see the same thing happening with my own boys. When they were young they were up at the crack of dawn (literally). At around 17 they have a hard time winding down at 11 p.m. which translates to getting up about 9 a.m.

Personally, I rather have my boys well rested, so we nudge the schedule a bit, trying to keep the late hours down, but we don't actively fight it since I know it will wear off in a few years. However, you can use the same tactics used for overcoming jet lag to get an internal clock readjusted. The only thing to keep in mind is that for several years it will continue to drift and you will have to continue to make adjustments.

How much sleep does your child need? Well, take about two weeks when there is nothing particular to do and let the child sleep "until." The first several days will be time to catch up on lost hours, but after several days, start noting when he goes to sleep (not when he heads to his room) and when he gets up. Shortly you should see a pattern of approximately the same number of hours.

If the problem is time shift, have the child go to bed at a time that gives them the number of hours they typically need and still get up at a reasonable time. At first, he won't be able to get to sleep. At the time to get up, open the shades, turn on the lights, tell him to get up, but let him get out on their own. It will take a few weeks, but you will notice a gradual shift.

Finally, if your child normally sleeps, say 9 hours, but suddenly wants to stay in bed 11, 12 or more hours for a large number of days, this is usually a sign of depression. Start looking for a cause. Don't ignore the signs.

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