School’s in session and practices have begun. So, just how much sleep do our kids need? 

If your child is serious about their schooling and sport, a sure way to increase performance is to encourage them to get enough sleep. Sleep is the very foundation of post-exercise recovery and regeneration.

There are three main factors to look at when evaluating your child’s sleep:

  1. Sleep length – Is she getting the optimal number of hours per night?
  2. Sleep quality – Is she dealing with sleep fragmentation, disturbances in the environment or sleep disorders?
  3. Sleep phase – Is the timing of your child’s sleep in line with circadian rhythm, leading to the most restorative sleep?

Ensuring optimal sleep length, quality and phase will affect your child athlete’s ability to train, increasing performance results and overall recovery. These three components of your child’s sleep will change over time as her body grows and training demands intensify. Through each new stage of an athlete’s career and increased levels of training intensity, a new evaluation of sleep needs is required. Not only does sleep support athletes in reaching their training goals, it also increases resistance to illness and improves recovery from injury.

Sleep Length Recommendations by Age
3-5 Years Old: 10-13 hours
6-13 Years Old: 9-11 hours
14-17 Years Old: 8-10 hours
What is the best time for your child to go to sleep?

When determining a good time for your child to go to bed, it’s important to work backwards from the time that your child likes to (or needs to) wake up. So, for example, a five-year-old who needs to be at school at 8:00am and requires about an hour to get ready and eat breakfast might function best when going to bed at 8:00pm or 9:00pm and waking up at 7:00am. Remember, though, that most children wake up early. So extending their bedtime until 10:00pm isn’t necessarily going to result in sleeping later in the morning—it will likely just result in a cranky child, particularly if this isn’t part of their regular routine.

As a parent, you can discuss the importance of sleep and athletic performance, post-exercise recovery and regeneration with both your child athlete and your child’s coaches. Overscheduling athletes at the expense of sleep will not increase a child’s performance, instead it will have the opposite effect. If your child is serious about his sport, you can support her training goals by helping her get serious about her sleep.

Adapted from Super Healthy Kids