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How much sleep is enough?

Children seem to be split into two groups, those that sleep and those that don’t. They’re also split into earlier risers and those that sleep in.  But how much sleep should your child be having?

The science bit

According to the NHS a 7-year-old child should have 10 hours and 30 minutes sleep a night.  If you follow the chart it goes down by 15 minutes each year.  Now this may sound fine in principle, but if your child sleeps in, chances are they’ll end up having way more than a child that wakes early. The same would happen in reverse if they wake up early.

But, according to a sleep calculator in the Daily Mail, if a 7-year-old needs to wake at 7am, the ideal bedtime could be 7:56pm, 8:46pm or 9:36pm, based on a 50-minute cycle. 9.36pm for a 7-year-old who has school the next day does seem rather late though.

The information is also somewhat contradictory and doesn’t seem to balance out.

So this is where you apply:


Here’s where the parenting gene kicks in.  You can check the charts, you can work out the ideal time, but if your child likes their sleep it won’t be enough. Or you’ll end up feeling frustrated that your child isn’t sleeping enough, isn’t going to bed at the right time or is waking too early.

It’s time to work with the real world, not the one on the charts, based on a mythical ‘ideal child’.

Working it out

Firstly, think about whether your child wakes early, or if they sleep in.  Most 7-year-olds will go to bed between 7-8pm. If your child wakes early this is likely to be closer to 7pm.

But, there’s another issue to consider here.  How much time do you, as a parent, need in the evening?  Do you need to work, time to relax, time with your partner?

As much as you need to consider what’s best for the kids, remember that it needs to work for you, too.

Stick to it

The easiest way to establish a bedtime that works for your family is to stick to it.  Work out what works for you, work out what time they tend to go off to sleep by and if they wake up themselves, or you have to drag them out of bed. Then decide on a time that works for everyone and stick to it.

If the kids know X is bedtime and that’s it, it makes it easier for everyone to stick to it. The kids know how long they have left to play and you know how long you have to wait until the remote is yours again!