What Kids Say About: Sleep
If you’re like most kids (big yawn), you’d like to get some more sleep. Oh, you know that drowsy morning feeling. You’re all snuggly warm in your bed and in comes your mom, saying it’s time to get up for school. Your head feels like it’s full of wet sand and you beg for another 5 minutes. Then you fall dead asleep again and you hear your mom yelling, “Get up! You’re going to be late!”
We wanted to find out how kids felt about getting their zzzzs, so we asked 1,187 girls and boys a bunch of questions about their sleep habits. And though kids are famous for not wanting to go to sleep, 70% said they wished they could get more of it. And almost 50% of kids said they’d like to get much more sleep than they normally get.
So it came as no surprise that 71% of kids said they felt sort of sleepy or very sleepy when it’s time to wake up for school. And 25% of kids said they felt tired at school every single day.
Know Your Sleep Needs
How can kids fix this? It’s easy and hard at the same time. The easy part is learning how much sleep you need. The hard part is getting that much sleep every night, especially when so much competes for your time. There are after-school activities, like sports, homework, chores you need to do around the house, and that great show on TV you just don’t want to miss. Any one or all of those can keep you from getting to bed on time.
Let’s start with the easy part. Only 32% of the kids we polled get the recommended amount of sleep for 9- to 12-year-olds. The ideal amount is 9½ to 10½ hours each night. But about 14% of the kids said they get less than 7½ hours, which is way too little. Another 17% reported getting 7½ to 8½ hours, while 37% said they get 8½ to 9½ hours.
Now that you know your target sleep amount, how do you get it? Lots of things can affect how much sleep a kid gets. First, there’s your normal bedtime. Most kids go to sleep around the same time during the school week. But who sets that time? About one third of kids say they set their own bedtime. That can be OK, if the kid sets it at a reasonable hour that enables him or her to get enough sleep. But it also can be a problem if the kid likes to stay up late (and who doesn’t?). But boy, you sure wish you had turned in earlier when that alarm clock starts beeping.
If you do a little math, you can figure out when your bedtime should be if you want to get at least 8½ hours of sleep. Start at your bedtime and count the hours until the time you usually wake up. For instance, if you usually go to bed at 10:30 and wake up at 6, that’s only 7½ hours of sleep — an hour less than the ideal amount. How important is that hour? Just imagine how great you’d feel if you rolled over on a school morning, looked at the clock, and saw you could sleep another whole hour. Sweet!
What Sleepy Kids Can Do
Say you do the math and it turns out you’re not getting enough sleep. What do you do? Well, we doubt your school will agree to start classes later just so you can get your beauty sleep. You need to change the time you go to bed. This is tough to do, but you can make a change if try hard.
Here are some steps to take:
- Ask a parent for help. Your mom or dad can be a big help by keeping you on track in the evenings so you’re ready for bed earlier. Talk to a parent about how to get your homework done earlier and if after-school activities are too much for you. Also talk to a parent if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
- Organize yourself before going to bed. If your lunch is packed and your backpack is ready to go, you can rest easy and you don’t have to rush around in the morning.
- Don’t have a TV in your bedroom. It can be too easy to turn it on and then too hard to turn it off when you really need to be sleeping.
- Create a relaxing routine. Follow the same bedtime routine each night, such as taking a warm shower, listening to music, or reading. Doing this can get your body and mind ready for a peaceful night of sleep.
- Once you’ve set a new bedtime, stick to it. If you’re going to stay up late on weekends, choose Friday to whoop it up. That leaves you Saturday night to get back in your sleep groove before the school week starts. Sleepovers, especially, should be planned for Friday instead of Saturday nights.
Follow this advice and you’ll be feeling rested and ready on Monday morning when your mom or dad says, “Wake up, sleepyhead!”
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD