Back-to-school time is here! Are you shortcutting your sleep—and the sleep that your kids need? Discover why you should start off on the right foot by sleeping (a lot) this school year.
We all know that sleep is important, but now that the back-to-school season is upon us, I’ve been researching the topic. Here’s what I’ve found:
1. Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night (on average) in order to be at their best. Today, most adults log in only 6.9 hours of sleep.
2. Newborns need about 16 hours of sleep a day. By 8 months, many babies need about 12 hours of sleep at night plus two naps for a total of 14 to 15 hours of sleep a day. Children ages 2 to 5 need 10 to 13 hours of sleep every night. Elementary-age children need 10 to 11 hours of sleep every night.
3. Teenagers need nine or more hours of sleep every night. Because of their biological clock, they’re more likely to go to bed later than most people, which is why sleep experts say that teenagers should have later school start times, such as 8:30 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. (or earlier).
4. Sleep deprivation alters your hormones, which causes you to feel hungrier and gain weight. Children who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to be obese.
5. Researchers have also found that sleep deprivation makes it harder for people to read facial expression and recognize emotions.
6. Women function less well on sleep deprivation than men.
7. Getting adequate sleep helps us manage information overload. Sleep researchers say that while we sleep, unnecessary information gets weeded out, which helps us to remember what’s essential and forget what’s not.
8. High school students who get Cs or lower graders get less sleep than teenagers with higher grades.
9. One out of five Americans complains about having sleep problems.
I—like everyone else—have a to-do list that’s longer than a python snake, which makes it easy to cut back on sleep in order to cram in all of my daily activities. But I’ve also discovered that I need good sleep in order to thrive. I am a long sleeper (which means I need 9 to 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night in order to function at my best), and I’ve met other long sleepers. They tend to be women who are shy and embarrassed about this fact. When we find each other, we quickly remind each other how vital it is that we get a long, good night’s sleep!
And as parents, we are role models for our kids. What kind of role models are we to our kids if we’re busy around the clock and cutting back on our sleep? Sleeping well—like eating well—is a key way to stay healthy. Let’s make it a priority to get enough sleep—and to encourage our kids to get enough sleep as well.
Lawrence J. Epstein, “Surprising Toll of Sleep Deprivation,” Newsweek,
June 18, 2010.
American Academy of Pediatrics, The Complete and Authoritative Guide:
Caring for Your Baby and Young Child Birth to Age 5 (New York: Bantam Books, 1998
Ibid.; WebMD Feature, “How Much Sleep Do Children Need?”
February 9, 2009.
WebMD Feature, ibid.
National Sleep Foundation, “Later School Start Times Improved
Adolescent Alertness,” July 6, 2010.
Lawrence J. Epstein, ibid.
Avigail Gordon, “Facing Up to Fatigue,” Psychology Today, July/August
D. T. Max, “The Secrets of Sleep,” National Geographic, May 2010,
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