sweet dreamsMy  granddaughter is seven and seems to need lots of sleep.  She is in Year 1 at school, goes to ballet, swimming and tennis lessons once a week and is in bed by 7:30pm (sometimes she falls asleep on the couch before dinner).  If she doesn't have an afternoon sleep on the weekends she is impossible.  She has at least two or three hours sleep on Saturdays and Sundays and last Sunday after a sleepover slept for four hours in the afternoon.  Is this normal for a seven year old as my daughter is worried that she needs so much sleep to get through the week?  She also suffers from mild food allergies and my daughter is going to take her to be tested.  I would be grateful if you could let me know if her sleep pattern is normal for a child her age. 

The amount of sleep a child actually needs is quite a lot compared to what the vast majority of children are actually getting each night. Most children (and adults) are sleep deprived and going to school and other activities with not enough sleep. Rest assured your granddaughter looks right on track with a great night’s sleep – she should be needing 11-12 hours sleep every night. School is very tiring for young children as at prep they are there from 8.30-3pm 5 days a week, 10 years ago at the same age children went to school for about 2 – 2 ½ days a week. I would actually bring her bedtime closer to 7pm if she is falling asleep before dinner. If a child receives the sleep their brain needs then they can concentrate at school and perform at the best of their ability. Without sleep, in fact with just ½ an hour less of sleep than they need research has shown us that they perform on tasks one whole grade level lower. Eg. If she was in grade 1 and missed ½ hour of sleep then she would perform at the level of prep student.

Also when children have been on a sleep-over they usually stay up later chatting and can lose many hours sleep, some parents actually limit sleep-overs to school holidays only. So your granddaughter wanting to sleep 4 hours in the day after a sleep over is okay as well. If she isn’t managing the 12 hours each night during the week, then she will (like us) have a daytime sleep as well. It is quite normal for children to still wake at their normal wake up time each morning even if they are tired rather than sleep in.

Signs to look for if your child isn’t getting enough sleep is: yawning early in the morning, becoming more active late in the afternoon and more hyperactive, a change in mood to grizzly/tears late in the afternoon, fussy eating at dinner time at the end of the day and difficulty concentrating and remembering at school, difficulty falling asleep at night, coming in and out of their beds : these are all signs of tiredness in children and they actually need more sleep. Your granddaughter is right on track so there is no need to worry its just that other children around her are more than likely sleep deprived.

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