Are Your Older Children Sleep Deprived?

Table of Contents

The answer is probably yes. Here’s how to fix it.


Your Rockin’ Blinks Cheat Sheet:

  • Studies show that at least 36 percent of our elementary-aged children aren’t getting enough sleep.
  • Loss of necessary sleep can result in anxiety, moodiness, poor grades, and poor health.
  • School-age children (6-13 years) still need between 9-11 hours of sleep a night.
  • Small changes in your household can result in quick improvements in your child’s sleep habits.

“I remember struggling to get out of bed when I was a child. The alarm clock would beep and beep, and it yet would feel impossible to open my eyes. I’m from Argentina, where the evening activities tend to run late; we would have dinner as a family around 8:30 or 9 pm, followed by help with the dishes, homework, and some TV. In general, my house wouldn’t be silent until well past 10 pm. My parents were both working full-time and woke up early. There was always a sense of order and routine. And still, I was not getting enough sleep. I also remember sleeping A LOT during weekends or vacations. I could fall asleep at 11 pm and wake up at 11 am, relishing in those 12 hours of sleep (those were the days!). Now, as an adult and sleep consultant, I have a different perspective about those years. Why was I sleeping so little when I needed my rest the most, during the school year, full of activities, exams, and pressures? And why was I getting all the benefits of sleep during vacation, showing that those were the necessary number of hours I needed to be well rested.” Our founder Lola Sanchez Liste, recently shared this story about her own struggles with childhood sleep: When Lola was a child in the 90’s, the general knowledge about the importance of sleep, and why and how it works, was not as widespread as it is now. People believed it was ok to catch up on sleep during the weekends. It was accepted that bad sleep was just part of childhood. “A tired child was a lazy child,” Lola says. “If a toddler was struggling to fall asleep, he was probably not tired enough! Going to bed was more about discipline and having a routine than staying healthy.” We know a lot more about sleep these days. And yet, children continue to be sleep-deprived, thanks to more access to screens, more sedentary lifestyles, less time outside, and more exposure to artificial light. The numbers are staggering, studies show that more than 36 percent of our elementary-aged children aren’t getting enough sleep, and likewise, more than a third of teenagers are struggling to fall asleep and stay that way. The resulting loss of necessary sleep hours can create both physical and mental health problems that negatively impact your child’s daily life: anxiety, moodiness, poor grades, and poor health.


So how much sleep do children actually need?

Your toddler, school-aged, and teen children likely need much more sleep than you think….and much more sleep than they’re getting. Here’s what the National Sleep Foundation says:

Recommended hours of sleep by age

Signs of Sleep Problems

If you aren’t sure if your child has a sleep problem that needs to be addressed, there are some classic signs of sleep deprivation in toddler, elementary-aged, and older children:

  • Bedtime resistance: in healthy sleepers, falling asleep should take 15-20 minutes.
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness: this is a sign of poor quantity or quality of night sleep.
  • Night awakenings: persistent night waking is connected to poorer daytime functioning and moodiness in both children and their parents, as well as behavior and overall family stress
  • Irregular sleep schedules: children and adults alike require consistent bedtime and wake time each day
  • Snoring or pauses in breathing while asleep: these are signs of a potentially serious problem that needs to be discussed with your child’s doctor


How to Help Children Get More Sleep

It’s never too late to turn the sleep shop around for your children and your family as a whole. Here are Lola’s tips for what you can do to help fix your child’s sleep right now.

1. Set boundaries around bedtime.

As a whole, our generation is doing hard work to set healthy boundaries for ourselves both as individuals and as parents. But we could do better, especially when it comes to overscheduling activities, limiting screen time, or letting our children determine their own destiny in terms of sleep and wake time. Setting a firm “lights out” / “devices off” time for your children may make them roll their eyes, but it will also give them the time they need to get ready to go to sleep. If you’re having trouble getting their buy-in, explain how important sleep is for their development and empower them with knowledge about their own health. Once you determine the boundaries, be consistent and stick to your plan.

2. Make your own sleep a priority.

This is one of those situations where you have to put your own mask on first. You need an adequate amount of sleep to be your best self, too: both as a human and as a parent.

3. Work to model good sleep habits for your children by establishing and sticking to a bedtime routine — for both of you.

Your child’s routine may look like snuggles in bed and a small stack of picture books before the sound machine comes on. Yours may be retinol cream and your eReader. However, if you choose to wind down, prioritize it routinely. This shows your child that sleep is important enough to slow down and get ready.

4. Educate yourself about sleep and good health.

There’s a lack of information in the parenting world when it comes to sleep and older kids. We don’t talk enough about the fact that irregular schedules lead to poor sleep and poor sleep leads to poor health. Lack of sleep can cause serious physical and mental health issues — issues that put strains on your income and take years off your life. Obesity, diabetes, injuries, anxiety, and behavior problems are just a few of the biggest issues your older kids could face without proper sleep. Disinformation often exists in the sleep consultant world, when we focus only on sleep training and not on the importance of sleep and the possibility of building healthy, restful routines. Our mission is to help with both.

5. Help manage your child’s anxiety.

It’s almost 2022 and if you’re not anxious about something, check your pulse. The last few years have been hard on all of us, and caregivers, we have to admit: the things that are stressing us out are also weighing on our children. In these times when we are seeing more children and teens face anxiety and depression, sleep becomes even more relevant. There’s hard data to support the theory that longer sleep duration is associated with better health in our children — both physically and mentally.

6. Don’t go it alone.

Like many parenting tasks, bedtime often ends up being delegated to one member of the couple. But routines require commitment and consistency from the entire family. Putting children to sleep works better when there is teamwork and both parents are on the same page when it comes to sleep.

7. Change the narrative!

Our most important piece of advice for you is that bad sleep doesn’t have to be part of childhood. We reject the narrative that sleeplessness is just something you have to drag your way through until your kids are grown. We know, we know. We’ve heard the “enjoy it, they grow so fast” story, too. And it’s true. They do. But you and your children deserve to enjoy life together. Well rested.

Good sleep is essential for a happy healthy childhood and life. Book a consultation with us now!

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