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We know how we can get cranky sometimes when deprived of sleep. Something that is so essential to us has now become a luxury in adulthood. According to Dr Richard Swinbourne, PhD, Senior Sport Dietitian and Sleep Scientist from Singapore Sport Institute, “We have lost two hours of sleep per night on average, compared to 40 years ago, slowly killing us through increased disease risk.” A separate meta-analysis of 16 studies revealed that insufficient sleep can increase the risk of early death by as high as 12%.

As sleep is also essential to our children, we should ensure they get an optimal amount of it in their developmental years.

Importance of sleep in children’s developmental years

These are among the many benefits of adequate sleep for our children.

1. Promotes growth

We often marvel at how fast children grow. This is possibly true as the growth hormone is primarily secreted during deep sleep. With deep sleep taking up about 50% of their critical growing up years, it becomes essential for adequate growth.


2. Reduces health risks

During sleep, proteins known as cytokines are produced. Our body relies on cytokines to fight infection, illness and stress. Sufficient sleep helps prevent excessive brain arousal during sleep and also elevated blood glucose and cortisol causing vascular damage. The latter lowers the risk of diabetes, obesity and even heart disease. With adequate sleep boosting immunity, our children are less susceptible to disease and illness, allowing them to stay in the pink of health.

3. Helps manage weight issues

Yes, children may experience weight issues too. Evidence is showing that insufficient sleep is one cause of children becoming overweight. A hormone called leptin signals us to stop eating when feeling full or satisfied. Sleep deprivation impacts the secretion of this hormone, resulting in possible overeating and obesity over time. Additionally, being energetic from getting enough rest curbs the craving for higher-fat or higher-carb foods, and enables our children to get active and burn calories.

4. Boosts concentration and learning

Studies have shown that naps have a pronounced impact on memory and learning retention. Compared to children who did not take a nap after learning, those who did were observed to be able to retain most of what they had learned. Adequate sleep impacts cognitive performance, vocabulary acquisition, learning and memory. Furthermore, children before the age of three who consistently sleep at least 10 hours per night are three times less likely to have hyperactivity and impulsivity problems by the age of six. Try including a short 30-minute nap into our kids’ daily routine!


Recommended amount of sleep for various age groups

How do we know our kids are getting adequate rest, or how much is adequate? ActiveSG's Active Health suggests for:

  • Babies
    • 0-3 months old – 14 to 17 hours of sleep/day
    • 4-11 months old – 12 to 15 hours of sleep/day
  • Toddlers
    • 1-2 years old – 11 to 14 hours of sleep/day
  • Pre-schoolers
    • 3-4 years old – 10 to 13 hours of sleep/day
    • 5-6 years old – 9 to 13 hours of sleep/day
  • Primary school children
    • 7-13 years old – 9 to 12 hours of sleep/day


Tips to ensure our children get adequate sleep

Knowing how critical sleep is to our children, here are some tips to condition them for optimal rest:

  • Fix a regular bedtime and stick to it, even during holidays!
  • Introduce a bedtime ritual to prepare your child every night. This can include either taking a warm bath and brushing teeth, or reading bedtime stories.
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment with dim lighting, a cool temperature, cosy sheets and pillow, and no noise.
  • Limit screen time on electronic devices by imposing screen time curfews before bedtime.
  • Expend their energy in the day and earlier so that they naturally feel tired and in need of sleep at night. When our children spend their day being active and occupied, they will gradually feel tired as their bedtime approaches, and be in need of good sleep at night.