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Health & Parenting

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Older Children May Go to Bed Later, Sleep Less, Feel Drowsier


School-age kids need 10 to 12 hours of sleep to restore the energy needed for growth, Montgomery says. "You can tell that kids need more sleep when they struggle to get out of bed, nap after school, and have poor concentration," Montgomery says. "In fact, some kids are just plain irritable."

Fortunately, there are some simple ways to promote good sleep habits. "Move bedtime up slowly, by a half hour a night," Montgomery says. "Then gradually wind down activity and start bedtime rituals an hour beforehand. For younger kids, warm baths, snacks, and stories are often helpful."

These same techniques apply to adolescents. "My daughter got her days and nights mixed up, so now we're trying to reset her internal clock," says Tonia McCoy-White, mother of 15-year-old Fetausha. "Her room is just for sleep now, not doing homework or watching TV. And there's no napping during the day."

Other good "sleep hygiene" techniques, experts say, include exposure to bright light during the day, limiting caffeine intake, darkening the room for sleeping, and a regular bedtime.

The study was supported by the Israel Ministry of Education and by Helene and Woolf Marmot.

Vital Information:

  • A new study confirms that sleep patterns vary with age. Older kids go to bed later and sleep for shorter periods than younger kids. Also, nighttime wakefulness is linked with family stress.
  • School-age kids need 10 to 12 hours of sleep to restore energy needed for growth. Signs of inadequate sleep are struggling to get out of bed, napping after school, poor concentration, and irritability.
  • Sleep habits are improved by moving bedtime up a half-hour each night, gradually winding down evening activity, and beginning bedtime rituals an hour beforehand.
  • Good sleep hygiene also includes avoiding daytime naps, limiting caffeine intake, darkening the room for sleeping, and having a regular bedtime.
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