Know your child’s sleep

How much sleep is enough for my six-year-old?

Q: My six-year old son sleeps a lot. Some people say that children need more sleep than adults, while some say he may be getting lazy. How much sleep is enough?

A: Children generally need more sleep than adults. An adult needs between 6-8 hours of sleep a day, while for children, it varies with age. A newborn sleeps anywhere between 15-20 hours.

As far as your six-year-old is concerned, he would need an average of 10 hours of sleep. However, this can vary from 8-12 hours, depending on the child. Whether one is getting enough sleep is measured not by the number of hours of sleep, but rather, by the amount of daytime sleepiness. If your child appears sleepy throughout the day, then it is likely he is not getting sufficient good-quality sleep at night.

Many factors can affect the quality of sleep. If your child is unwell, if he is getting repeatedly disturbed in the night due to sound, a lack of ventilation, temperatures
that are too hot or too cold, insect bites, or some breathing problems [sleep apnoea], then he might appear sleepy in spite of sleeping for 10 or more hours at night.
Nowadays, children tend to go to bed late. It has also been medically proven that the amount of sleep a child gets before midnight is twice as rejuvenating as the hours of sleep after midnight.

If your child is physically or mentally stressed, or if he suffers from any sort of breathing difficulty like a nose block, adenoid tissue enlargement or obstructive sleep apnoea, the quality of sleep is bound to be poor. Also, due to concerns such as school, many children need to be woken up in the morning, when their sleep is still incomplete. As far as possible, ensure your child sleeps when he is sleepy and gets up on his own in the morning, when his sleep is over.

P V Vaidyanathan
Dr P V Vaidyanathan, MD, DCH, is a Mumbai-based paediatrician in private practice, hobbyist writer, and author of a book on childhood stress management.


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