Do your kids need more sleep? Or less? Both too little and too much can be detrimental to their health, says the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Follow the academy’s official recommendations to reveal your family’s sleep health.

To sleep or not to sleep

We all know that sleeping is essential to a healthy life. Adults welcome it, children fight it and teenagers have patterns of their own. But, says Dr Shalini Paruthi, fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), ‘It’s important to promote healthy sleep habits in early childhood, and it’s especially important as children reach adolescence to ensure that they’re able to get sufficient sleep.’

Earlier this year, the AASM released its official recommendations for the amount of sleep needed from infancy to the teenage years to promote optimal health. The recommendations follow a 10-month project conducted by a Pediatric Consensus Panel of 13 of the US’s foremost sleep experts, and are endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Sleep Research Society and the American Association of Sleep Technologists. The panel reviewed 864 published scientific articles that address the relationship between sleep duration and health in children, and evaluated the evidence before making final recommendations. And here they are:

How many hours should your children sleep?

According to the recommendations:

  • Babies aged 4–12 months need 12–16 hours per day, including naps
  • Children of 1–2 years should sleep 11–14 hours per day
  • Children aged 3–5 need 10–13 hours a day
  • Six to 12-year-olds function best on 9–12 hours a day
  • 13–18-year-olds need 8–10 hours

The panel found that sleeping the number of recommended hours regularly results in better overall health: improved attention, behaviour, learning, memory, emotional stability, quality of life, mental and physical health.

What happens when children get too little sleep?

A 2016 study of the sleep behaviour of 825 South African teenage students revealed that most get insufficient sleep during the week, which they attempt to compensate for on the weekends. Forty percent of the SA study group felt they could happily have a mid-morning nap if given the chance. Children who don’t get the recommended number of hours are at risk of:

  • Attention, behaviour and learning problems.
  • Obesity and diabetes.
  • Hypertension.
  • Depression.

The panel also found that sleep-deprived teenagers (who sleep fewer than seven hours a night) are more likely to take risks, such as biking without a helmet, not wearing a seatbelt, driving with a driver who has been drinking, driving and drinking, and texting and driving. They’re also at higher risk of self-harm, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.

What if your child is sleeping – and sleeping?

Of your teenager is constantly draped across the couch, fast asleep, you need to chat about the possibility that they’re trying to escape facing the world. Sleeping too much may be a warning signal of depression. Apart from the link with mental health problems, too much sleep is also associated with hypertension, diabetes and obesity.

Encouraging better sleep

‘Making sure there is ample time for sleep is one of the best ways to promote a healthy lifestyle for a child of any age,’ says Dr Nathaniel Watson, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The best way to get a calm night’s sleep is to:

  • Try to go to sleep at the same time every night to regulate your body’s natural rhythms.
  • Sign off from that Facebook chat, close the computer, switch off the cellphone and dim the lights.
  • Get some exercise every day, preferably outdoors.
  • Eat properly. Avoid fizzy cooldrinks, excess caffeine and fast foods.
  • Try natural supplements like Flora Force SleepTM – a safe, all-natural formula in vege-capsule form. Get yours at Faithful To Nature.

Advice for parents.

If you’re concerned about your youngster sleeping too little or too much, consult your healthcare practitioner.
And while we’re on the topic, how much sleep should you be getting? If you’re in your early 20s, you need 6–11 hours shut-eye a night, and 6–10 hours if you’re between 26 and 64. Older than 64? Five to nine hours are perfect.

Acknowledgements & Photo credits

Article compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer.


  1. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Recharge with sleep: Pediatric sleep recommendations promoting optimal health.
  2. Blaszczak-Boxe, Agata. Children’s sleep: New guidelines on shut-eye for kids.
  3. Reid, A., Maldonado, C. and Baker, F. Sleep behavior of South African adolescents. 2002, June. Sleep 25(4):423-7.

Photo credits

  1. Photo courtesy of dagon_ /