Many parents are surprised to learn that there is no magic number to tell them how much sleep their children need. Regardless of age, each individual varies in the amount of sleep required to perform best during the day, reports the National Sleep Foundation. However, there are some guidelines to help you determine the amount of sleep your child should receive.
A Ballpark Figure
The National Sleep Foundation provides an estimate of 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep a night for children and teens ages 10 to 17. While most children in this age group will awaken rested and alert and will perform best both academically and physically within this range, individual sleep needs vary. The child's health, sleep history and daytime activities may affect the amount of sleep he needs.
Running on Empty
Teens are notorious for staying up late to chat with friends or surf the Internet, and they often stay out late on the weekends. Because they often stay up too late and rise early for school, a sleep deficit may develop. When this happens, your child may need considerably more sleep on the weekends to make up for lost sleep during the week. Teens who sleep the day away on the weekend really aren't being lazy. They are giving their bodies much-needed rest to compensate for the shortfall all week.
As children enter adolescence, their biological sleep patterns change. It is not uncommon for teens to have difficulty falling asleep before 11 p.m. and to develop the natural tendency to sleep later in the morning. This natural process is at odds with school schedules, forcing many teens to suffer from sleep deprivation through no fault of their own. Before you nag your 13-year-old to go to bed earlier to make it easier to get up in the morning, consider the fact that his body may not be ready to go to sleep until later than usual.
Assessing Sleep Needs
How wakeful and alert your child is when he rises in the morning is a clue to whether he is getting enough sleep -- but it can be deceiving. Not everyone is a morning person, bubbling over with enthusiasm at the sight of a sunrise. Some signs that your child may need more sleep are: problems concentrating or maintaining focus, yawning, irritability, napping for more than 45 minutes during the day, falling asleep in class or sleeping more than two hours later on the weekends -- assuming he went to bed at his usual time.