Getting quality sleep and the right amount of it is essential for us human beings and has many benefits, especially for children. Indeed, children's brains are still growing and it is during the rest imposed by sleep that new neural circuits are formed. In addition, it is during sleep, that the production of various hormones, essential for the proper functioning of the human body, is regulated. Good sleep also initiates the process of short-term memorization and learning, and is also associated with a better immune response.
The nature and duration of sleep varies according to the stages of childhood: a child under 6 years of age has greater sleep needs than a teenager and naps are still essential. From the age of 3, daily sleep time decreases significantly compared to the first months of life. At 6 years old, naps gradually disappear and the duration of night time sleep continues to decrease.
|Evolution of sleep requirements over 24 hours depending on age|
|0-6 y-o||3 y-o||6 y-o||12 y-o||20 y-o +|
|16-17 hours||12 hours||10 hours||9 hours||7 hours|
There are 3 stages in the evolution of sleep in a human being:
0 to 24 months: sleep stabilization
3 to 6 years: gradual disappearance of naps
6 years old through adolescence: sleep time decreases
Sleep is organized in cycles. It begins with a phase of falling asleep followed by several cycles that follow one another.
Each cycle has two types of phases:
- "Slow" sleep: corresponds to the calm phases. It is more or less deep and corresponds to a decrease in brain activity.
- REM sleep: corresponds to the phase of intense brain activity, where dreams occur and rapid eye movements can be observed.
A night consists of several cycles, generally 4 to 6, the duration of which varies according to age, with each cycle composed of slow and REM phases. These are also age-dependent.
Improve your child's sleep:
Adjust the sleeping environment: make sure your child is sleeping in a room with a temperature between 22 and 24 degrees (if you have an air conditioner, or a well ventilated room if this is not the case). The room should be dark (or a small night light can be used) because it is in the dark that new neural circuits are preferentially formed. The room should also be quiet; reduce noise sources to a minimum whenever possible. This also includes electronic "noise": electronic devices should be switched off at night and those connected to wifi should be placed outside the room. Bedding should be regularly cleaned and the size of the mattress should be adapted to your child's size.
Daytime activities: make sure that during the day your child has exerted enough energy (sports, games, and if it's outdoors, it's even better!)
Sugar: one of the many negative aspects of excessive sugar consumption is its stimulating effect which is obviously a problem for sleeping, especially if the sugar has been consumed late in the day. Remember to limit sweets during the day, and even more so in the second half of the afternoon.
Time before bedtime: a light dinner is recommended at least one hour before bedtime.
At bedtime: bedtime must be at the same time every day (even on weekends give or take 30min) and accompanied by a routine that you have created with you child according to his or her preferences (reading a story, going over the best moments of the day, singing a lullaby...).
Sleep education: familiarize yourself with your child's sleep-wake rhythm, which may be different from your own. Also teach him to recognize his own signs of sleepiness so that he not only realize for himself that he is tired but agrees to go to bed without making too much of a fuss.
We hope you found this information on children's sleep requirements to be useful. Feel free to send us your comments and questions on the subject in the section provided below.
CHALLAMEL, Marie-Joéphine, THIRION Marie, Le sommeil, le rêve et l'enfant,Albin Michel, 1995
GALARNEAU Sylvie, Fais dodo mon trésor, Editions MNH, 1999
RÉMOND Emmanuelle, To put her children to bed and keep them there,Éditions Fleurus