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Are Kids Getting Enough Sleep?: September 5, 2012

Barb Lawrence figured her two kids would be worn out by the end of the day. Instead she’s more frazzled than they are.

“Now that they’re three and four, we try to get them to bed at a regular time. Sometimes they’ll wake up at 4 AM and at 5 AM. I thought they’d sleep better after having gone to preschool...they’re exhausted,” says Lawrence.

As babies they slept 12 hours a night, with a few naps thrown in. Now their down time has shrunk to eight or nine hours.

“If kids don't get the basic amount of sleep that helps their engine function, helps them grow, they are not going to do as well during the day,” says Lee Memorial Health System pediatrician Dr. Martin Sherman.

Adults talk about needing a solid eight hours of sleep. That’s not nearly enough for kids. Experts believe sleep is one of a child’s top jobs.

“There are certain areas that are actually more activated during sleep than during awake periods.  Sleep has different functions and learning and memory and consolidation are some of those,” says Dr. Jose Colon, a sleep specialist with Lee Memorial Health System.

Behavioral and metabolic conditions are linked to sleep deficits.

“Around 10 years of age, you should be getting about 10 hours of sleep overnight.  Ninth grader through high school should be getting approximately nine hours per night,” says Dr. Colon.

Younger children need even more sleep.  Between three and five years old, the range is 11 to 13 hours. From five to twelve, it’s 10 or 11 hours. But sleep is not one-size fits all.

“Say you go to the pediatrician and they show you a growth curve.  And that growth curve is really broad. Well, the sleep curve is actually even broader.  Different people need different amounts,” says Dr. Colon.

When it comes to judging whether your child is getting the proper Zs, maybe mother knows best.

“Sometimes they even get a second wind because they have had no sleep. And they’re just bouncing off the walls,” says Lawrence.