Getting enough sleep is essential for children’s growth and development. Children who get adequate shut-eye are more likely to grow to their full height potential than those who don’t. So how many hours of sleep do kids need to maximize their growth? The amount changes as children get older.
How Sleep Affects Growth
Growth hormone is essential for proper growth and development. This hormone is primarily secreted during deep sleep stages. Not getting enough sleep reduces the amount of time the body spends in deep sleep and decreases growth hormone production. Over time, reduced growth hormone secretion can limit growth potential.
In addition, lack of sleep can lead to increased appetite and weight gain. Excess weight during childhood can negatively impact the bones, putting mechanical stress on the growth plates which can slow or limit growth.
Sleep Recommendations by Age
The National Sleep Foundation provides the following recommended hours of sleep per day for children:
|Age||Recommended Hours of Sleep Per Day|
|Newborns (0-3 months)||14-17 hours|
|Infants (4-12 months)||12-16 hours|
|Toddlers (1-2 years)||11-14 hours|
|Preschoolers (3-5 years)||10-13 hours|
|School-age (6-12 years)||9-12 hours|
|Teens (13-18 years)||8-10 hours|
As the table shows, infants need as much as 16 hours of sleep per day while teens need at least 8 hours. The dramatic decrease occurs because preschool-aged children transition from needing a nap. However, the sleep requirement remains high throughout childhood.
Naps Matter Too
Naps are very important for infants and young toddlers. Getting adequate daytime sleep ensures these young children get enough rest to support growth. In general, experts recommend:
- Newborns: Several naps per day totaling 3-4 hours is common.
- 6-12 Months: 2 naps per day adding up to about 2 hours.
- 1-2 Years: 1 nap per day lasting 1-2 hours.
Naps provide additional growth hormone release and rest required for proper development. Children naturally begin dropping naps as they transition into the preschool years.
Set a Consistent Bedtime
Establishing a regular bedtime is key to ensuring children get adequate sleep. Kids who go to bed at different times each night get inconsistent sleep amounts. Aim for the same bedtime 7 nights a week to promote healthy sleep habits.
To determine an appropriate bedtime, count backwards by the recommended number of hours based on your child’s age. For example, if your preschooler needs 11 hours of sleep, and needs to wake up at 7am, bedtime should be 8pm.
Optimizing Sleep for Growth
Along with meeting the recommended sleep totals, certain practices can help optimize sleep quality and growth hormone release:
- Get exposure to natural light in the morning to set circadian rhythms.
- Ensure the child’s bedroom is completely dark during sleep.
- Avoid bright lights and screens before bedtime.
- Keep the bedroom cool, around 65°F, to support deep sleep.
- Establish a calming pre-bedtime routine like taking a bath.
- Be consistent with wake time, even on weekends, to regulate the body clock.
Signs Your Child Isn’t Getting Enough Sleep
If your child is chronically sleep deprived, you may notice:
- Difficulty waking in the mornings
- Daytime fatigue, yawning, or irritability
- Increased clumsiness or hyperactivity
- Difficulty concentrating
- More frequent illnesses
- Changes in mood, appetite or weight
Ongoing sleep deprivation can negatively impact growth and school performance. Speak to your pediatrician if you suspect your child isn’t sleeping enough.
The Link Between Snoring and Growth
Loud, frequent snoring is a red flag that can indicate sleep disordered breathing. Children who snore due to conditions like sleep apnea experience very fragmented sleep.
One study found young children with sleep apnea were smaller than their peers who slept normally. After undergoing surgery for sleep apnea, the children’s growth normalized.
Snoring children should be evaluated by a sleep specialist. Promptly treating conditions disrupting sleep can help maximize growth potential.
Prioritize Sleep for Proper Development
Adequate, high-quality sleep is just as essential as nutrition when it comes to children’s growth. Allowing kids to stay up late or skip naps to gain a few extra hours in the day results in lost sleep time crucial for growth.
Setting appropriate bedtimes, sticking to nap schedules, and ensuring good sleep habits will help your child reach their maximum height.
Children require significantly more sleep than adults to support growth and development. Infants need as much as 16 hours while teens still need 8-10. Regular bedtimes, adequate total sleep and daytime naps for young children are key. Optimizing sleep quality and promptly addressing any conditions disrupting sleep also helps growth. Prioritizing healthy sleep throughout childhood allows kids to reach their full height potential.