Kindergartener sleep needs: tips to keep your 5 year old well restedUpdated Aug 19, 2022
Sending your child to kindergarten can stir up all kinds of emotions. Joy, excitement, and maybe some anxiety too. While we can’t help your kiddo memorize those sight words or teach them to tie their shoes, we can help you ensure they get enough sleep to set them up for success — emotionally, socially, and academically.
IN THIS ARTICLE
How much should a kindergartener sleep?
When it comes to how many hours of sleep a child should have in a 24-hour period, there’s no shortage of opinions. While it can be tempting to focus on a particular number of hours, we encourage you to consider other factors when determining whether your child is getting enough sleep.
Signs your school-aged child isn’t getting enough sleep
Falling asleep spontaneously (i.e. during short car trips, or at mealtimes) or having excessive daytime sleepiness
Sleeping later on non-school days to “make up” for lost sleep
Exhibiting behaviors linked to overtiredness in the evenings, such as increased moodiness, whininess, or hyperactivity
Signs your school-aged child is getting sufficient sleep
Naturally waking at desired times on non-school days (without an alarm clock or parent waking them)
No longer needing naps at 5 years of age or older
Appearing well rested throughout the day, and into the early evening
Hours needed for adequate sleep
We get it. You still want to see the numbers. It’s important to keep in mind that sleep ranges vary, and you shouldn’t go by the number of hours slept alone. You’ll want to monitor your child’s mood in addition to viewing the recommended hours as a general guide.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) says 3 - 5 year old kids should get 10 - 13 hours of sleep, and 6 - 12 year old kids should get 9 - 12 hours. These ranges are supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) but are so broad that they may not be particularly helpful if you’re wondering exactly how many hours your 4 - 6 year old kindergartener needs.
A 2012 systematic review of 34 studies looked at the average amount of sleep among narrower age groups. They found that 4 - 5 year olds averaged 11.5 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, while 6 year olds averaged 9.7 hours of sleep.
At Huckleberry, we find that most kindergartners need an average of 10 - 11 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period depending on their age. Younger kids who start school at 4 years of age may need 11 or more hours of total sleep, while a 6 year old may be well rested with 10 hours of night sleep. Again, view these recommendations as a general guideline — not as a strict rule for all kids. Some children may need more sleep, and some may need less.
Health benefits of sleeping for a kindergartener
According to the AAP, kids who get adequate sleep perform better in school as well as have healthier immune systems, behavior, and mental health. Research supports that sleep is especially important when it comes to learning and memory function. Children who don’t get enough sleep are at greater risk of developing health, behavior, and attention problems which can negatively impact school performance.
Common sleep issues for kindergarteners
While school-aged children tend to sleep better than babies and toddlers, it’s still normal to face sleep challenges at this age. They can include:
Stalling and/or resisting bedtime
Medical issues, such as obstructive sleep apnea
5 Tips and tricks for getting your kindergartener to sleep well
(Tip 1) Set an age-appropriate bedtime
Bedtimes will vary between different kids. You’ll want to establish a regular bedtime, which will allow your child to get enough nighttime sleep (usually a minimum of 10 - 11 hours) and wake up refreshed with plenty of time to get ready for school. A bedtime that’s too late can lead to insufficient sleep which often translates into trouble waking in the morning and daytime sleepiness.
Children who are overtired also tend to have more nightmares and night terrors, so getting a sufficient amount of sleep can help reduce these sleep disruptors. A word of warning: Don’t go overboard on the early bedtimes. While we want to ensure bedtime is early enough, we don’t want to set it too early as that can lead to stalling at bedtime.
(Tip 2) Opt for early bedtimes instead of naps
School can be exhausting for kids, especially for those adjusting to longer days away from home. If your kindergartener is falling asleep on the couch after school, it could be a sign that they need more sleep. Try to avoid naps, as they can push bedtime too late and create a cycle of insufficient sleep. Move bedtime a bit earlier instead. Sometimes even 30 extra minutes of sleep can make it easier for little kids to remain well rested throughout the day.
(Tip 3) Turn off screens an hour before bedtime
We understand. It can be hard to say “no” to chilling out and watching a show at the end of a long day with your little one. We don’t want to sound like the screen police. You should know though, that the blue light emanating from tablets, television, and smartphones suppresses melatonin (the hormone which helps control the sleep-wake cycle) and inhibits sleepiness.
In other words, it’s best to shut those devices off well before bedtime. Keeping them on before bedtime can impact your child’s circadian rhythm and make it much harder for them to fall asleep. There’s evidence that even short durations of blue light impact children far more than adults.
(Tip 4) Maintain a calm bedtime routine
It’s well established that consistent bedtime routines help children fall asleep easier and help to improve the overall quality of sleep. They’re also great for instilling healthy hygiene habits, building communication skills through lullabies, reading and/or talking, and bonding with your child.
(Tip 5) Begin the night the way you want it to end
Use bedtime to set the habits you’d like to continue throughout the night. If your goal is for your child to sleep alone in their own bed, for the entire night, then work on ensuring that they fall asleep that way at bedtime too (if you haven’t already).
When a child is used to falling asleep on their own at bedtime, it often translates into falling back to sleep independently throughout the night. That means they’ll be more likely to fall back to sleep on their own after a brief awakening, rather than call out for your help, or stand next to your bedside staring at you until you open your eyes. That can mean better sleep for the entire family.
Kindergartener sleep FAQ
Q: How much sleep does a 5 year old need?
Sleep needs vary by child, but at Huckleberry, we find most 5 year olds need at least 10.5 hours of sleep at night. Let your child’s mood and energy levels help guide you when determining if they’re getting enough sleep.
Q: What time should a kindergartener go to bed?
Optimal bedtimes differ. Take your child’s typical wake time into account and allow for sufficient night sleep (usually about 10 - 11 hours at this age). For example, a kindergartener who wakes at 6:30 AM and needs around 10.5 hours of sleep should have a bedtime around 8:00 PM. This means that the bedtime routine should be completed and lights off by 7:45 - 7:50 PM, to allow time to fall asleep.
Q: What are some common sleep problems with kindergarteners?
Common sleep issues for school-aged children include stalling at bedtime, difficulty falling asleep, insufficient sleep, and waking during the night (sometimes from nightmares). Some children also deal with night terrors or medical concerns, such as sleep apnea.
Q: When should I talk to their doctor about sleep problems?
Reach out to your pediatrician if you have concerns about your child’s sleep, as they may be able to suggest behavioral or schedule changes. It’s especially important to speak with your doctor if your child is snoring, has loud or heavy breathing while sleeping, or has excessive daytime sleepiness despite appearing to get a sufficient amount of sleep. These can sometimes be clues that there’s a medical issue.
Q: Should I consider melatonin supplements?
Melatonin is a hormone that’s produced in the brain and helps control the timing of sleep. More research is needed on the safety of melatonin supplements in children. Melatonin supplements should only be used under careful consideration and if monitored by a physician. Establish healthy sleep habits, such as a consistent bedtime routine, before considering the use of medicines or sleep aids.
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Note: The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice from your doctor, pediatrician, or medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact a medical professional.