We all know that getting a kid to sleep can be nightmare sometimes – they plead, they cry, they bargain for ‘just ten more minutes’.
Then suddenly once they become teenagers getting them out of bed at all seems like a Herculean task. What gives?
And then there is poor mum. Chances are she won’t be able remember the last time she slept the entire night through. The words overworked and underrested come to mind.
But who actually needs the most sleep? Below we take a look and see exactly what is required at each age.
Kids – 11 to 14 hours
Every child is of course different – some need more sleep, others less. Some are good daytime nappers, others sleep longer at night.
Roughly speaking however, in their preschool years between 2 and 4 years old, kids should be getting anywhere upto a whopping 14 hours sleep over the course of 24 hours.
This figure falls slightly as your young one matures, from the age of 5 to 10 they should be getting up to 11 hours a night.
Why they need this much sleep is quite simply to support the incredibly rapid mental and physical development their young minds and bodies are going through.
And if your little one is a problem child when it comes to bedtime, don’t fall into the trap some parents do of believing that maybe they just don’t need as much sleep as other kids. The opposite is probably true.
Unlike adults who get sluggish and slow down when tired, children tend to display the opposite behaviour, getting wound up and excitable instead.
Expert advice is that encouraging good sleep in kids is all about routine and stimulation. Set the same bedtime every night and then engineer their evening schedule to gradually wind down to meet it.
This means no screens before bed, no matter how much they plead. Read them a bedtime story, it will help them sleep and encourage literacy.
Nightmares and other sleep problems can develop at this age as a consequence of brain development and an increased power of imagination. For advice on how to avoid nightmares check out the expert advice of the Sleep Advisor team.
Teenagers – 9 hours
There is a reason it is such a difficult task to wake your teenage son or daughter – they actually sleep deeper than we do as adults.
To get a bit sciency for a moment. There are effectively three main types of of non REM sleep, Stage 1, 2 and 3.
Stage 1 is basically time spent between wakefulness and sleep, referred to as somnolence or dozing.
Stage 2 is the first stage of real sleep and is quite restorative in nature. Stage 3 is the the deepest and most powerful stuff. Stage III is also known as deep-wave sleep.
Stage 3 is when the majority of our brain’s Information processing and memory consolidation takes place. It is very good for us. And luckily for teenagers they spend a greater proportion of their night time enjoying the good stage 3 stuff sleep than adults do.
It is far harder to wake an individual who is engaged in stage 3 sleep. And when awakened the sleeper will often feel extremely groggy and may take up to 30 minutes to attain normal cognitive performance, a condition known as sleep inertia.
Added to this is a natural shift in a teen’s circadian rhythms associated with puberty, known as ‘sleep phase delay’. This sees the need for sleep be shift a couple of hours later. Meaning they will likely to stay up a couple of hours later in the evening.
The danger is there stay up too late. But as they still require their 9 hours before getting up for school it is important to encourage a healthy bedtime, otherwise their won’t be enough hours in the night.
Mum – 8 hours
Poor Mum, for all the work she does, she definitely deserves the most sleep and it is almost certain she gets the least. But how much does she need?
Well you probably already know the answer to this one – eight hours a night is widely seen as the optimal amount for a healthy adult. The exact amount differs from adult to adult and is based on a range of contributing factors from genetics to lifestyle.
What is certain is that there is definite shift in our sleep patterns as we make the transition from our teenage years into the young adulthood of our early twenties.
Instead of spending large portions of the night enjoying deep-wave sleep, young adults now spend more time in stage 2, also known as middle sleep. This is more restorative than stage 1 but considerably less so than stage 3.
Why this happens has a lot to do with the natural aging process but it also has a fair deal to do with our lifestyles as we get older. Unfortunately the added stresses and strains of being a responsible adult seep into our sleep and play havoc.
There you have – the three ages of sleep. In a nutshell, the amount of sleep we need drops steadily as we get older until we reach adulthood when it plateaus.
There is a myth that as we age further we continue to need less and less sleep. This isn’t true, the amount of sleep we require as adults remains stable at around 8 hours, what differs is our ability to get sleep. Something that just gets worse as the years and health conditions add up.
So whatever age you are now, enjoy what you get because it just gets harder from here!