does your child need less sleep?

Probably not.  I am frequently asked by perplexed parents of children who don’t seem to sleep as much as other children they know or have heard of if it’s possible that they have one of those children who just needs less sleep than another.  And while it is true that not everyone’s sleep needs are identical, the fact is that what we often try to pass off as enough sleep is simply too little. A recent New York Times Article, “Distractions May Shift, but Sleep Needs Don’t” points out this tendency to assume our child is one of the exceptions when it works better for the family schedule.  This is a growing problem as children get older and have busy lives packed with social event and activities.

“The literature really strongly suggests the average early to mid-adolescent needs 9 to 9.25 hours a night,” said Dr. Judith Owens, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University, who directs the Pediatric Sleep Disorders Clinic at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

She quickly headed off my question about children — or adults — who don’t need that much sleep. “It’s a bell-shaped curve,” she said, with just 2.5 percent of the population needing significantly less sleep than average.

“The problem,” she went on, “is that 95 percent of us think we’re in that 2.5 percent. You should assume until proven otherwise that your kid needs that much sleep.”