Many parents make the mistake of assuming that eight hours of sleep is enough for a growing preschooler. While that may be true for a small percentage of children, the latest sleep recommendations by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine call for 10-13 hours of sleep per 24-hour period (including naps) for children between the ages of three and five years old.
Let’s keep it simple. On average, a preschooler who regularly wakes at 7:00 a.m. to start the day will benefit most by an 8:00 p.m. bedtime. This may be adjusted depending on whether the child has a nap during the day. For most three year olds, the average nap is about an hour and fifteen minutes. About 80% of five year olds no longer need naps, but this is related to the child’s activity level, physical development, body fat, and other factors.
The two biggest reasons to prioritize sleep for your preschooler: brain development and behavior.
Sleep is not a dormant state. The preschool years are a critical period for brain growth, and sleep is the #1 requirement for neural development.
Every parent knows that a tired child is more likely to melt down, but when this happens regularly, it is cause for concern. Sleep deprivation in young children results in heightened negative emotions and dulled positive emotions. This isn’t fun for anyone, but more importantly, it can lead to serious long-term social and health challenges for the child.
Worry that an early bedtime will result in your child waking before dawn? Studies show that children who go to bed later are more likely to be overtired, sleep fewer hours and sleep less soundly, resulting in a combination of memory, concentration, and behavior issues.
The best way to get your child to bed early:
Parents who truly value the health and development of their children will make an early bedtime a non-negotiable priority. Bonus: an early bedtime means parents get more time for themselves.
by Maya Frost, Head Teacher at Hábitat Learning Community®