How Much Sleep Your Kids Need & How To Set A Consistent Bedtime

Dear Dr. Bill,

We haven’t been consistent with the bedtime for our children, ages 8, 6, and 4.  We would like to implement a more consistent schedule.  How many hours do my children need to sleep?  And do you have any tips on improving bedtime?


Dear Robin,

Last week I mentioned new research on how lack of sleep and inconsistent bedtimes may negatively impact a child’s learning.

Here are some recommendations on sleep from the American Academy of Pediatrics:  Your four-year old needs 12 hours of sleep per night.  Your 6 year old should get 10-11 hours of sleep, and your 8 year old should get 9-10 hours.

Also get your kids to bed EARLY.  One of the mistakes parents make is putting their kids to bed too late at night.

Often that’s because one or both parents are working during the day, and they want to spend time interacting with their kids during the evening hours.

If that limits the amount of time you or your husband are able to play with them in the evening, the solution is for you to come home earlier, NOT put them to bed later.

You should also know that kids fight sleep when they’re over-tired.  That seems counter-intuitive…we think, “Hey, if they’re really tired, they should fall asleep easier.”  But an exhausted child is fussy and cranky, and often has more difficulty falling asleep.

You should also have a regular bedtime routine.  This could be a bath, followed by a story and bedtime prayers.  The goal is to help your children slowly wind down and get ready for sleep.   If you try to put them down right after they’ve been engaged in active play, their adrenaline will be pumping and it will be difficult for them to fall asleep.  The same goes for watching TV just before bed.

Thanks for writing, Robin.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

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Shine Family Expert