How Much Sleep Does Your Family Really Need?

The other morning my youngest daughter was having an emotional meltdown before school. In fact, I could probably write that sentence on any given day because on most mornings she has an emotional meltdown before school. Usually it’s because she is feeling rushed (the bus comes awfully early), and she doesn’t like her parents nagging at her to get her before school tasks done.

On the particular morning I am thinking of, she didn’t want to brush her teeth. She was in full blown meltdown mode—if you have a 4th grade daughter, perhaps you are familiar with it—which meant she wasn’t listening, she wasn’t being reasonable, and she was crying. A lot.

If you and your kids are cranky, you may not be getting enough sleep. Find out the sleep recommendations for each age group. #overstuffedlife

I couldn’t take it anymore and I snapped. I yelled at her to get herself into the bathroom and brush her teeth and to stop throwing a fit. Needless to say, mom yelling did nothing to help the situation—all that did was exacerbate it.

Funny enough, this post is not about how to deal with tantruming children without melting down yourself.

This post is about how to prevent the tantrums in the first place.

And when I say tantrums, I mean tantrums of both the child and adult variety.

I don’t know about you, but when I am tired I become unreasonable. I am more likely to flip out about stupid things. I become incredibly impatient.

And, if I’m being honest, I rarely get enough sleep. I am a night owl to the core, and yet I have to get up early to get the kids off to school. On my days off, I often go back to bed after they leave, but on the days that I work I can’t do that. I average about 5-6 hours of sleep each night.

Which is simply not enough.

I think I can function on 6 hours a night, but according to research, adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep—even for just one day—have more difficulty concentrating and more trouble regulating their moods than adults who get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

Yeah, I rarely get more than seven hours of sleep. But when I let my body decide how long to sleep, it usually picks 9-10 hours.

I am totally sleep deprived!

And my sleep deprivation is NOT making my home happier at all. It is doing quite the opposite, in fact. I’m cranky in the mornings, I’m cranky in the afternoons, I’m cranky before bed. Heck, I’m cranky all day. Because I just want to go to sleep, but I can’t.

Use a Misfit Shine to track your sleep and activity.

I wear a Misfit Shine device (similar to a fitbit) that tracks my exercise and sleep. It syncs up with my phone and I can see how much I slept each night, and most nights it looks more like the example on the left, though that was a particularly bad night. Only on weekends does it look more like the example on the right.

2023 Update: I now use an Apple Watch, but I’m still tracking my sleep. And I’m still falling short more often than I’d like.

Guess who is more calm on the weekends? More patient? More kind and understanding? More focused?

That’s right! Me. Sleep is an amazing cure for Snappy Mom Syndrome.

What about the kids? How much sleep do they need?

I’m pretty sure my girls don’t get near enough sleep, either. My middle daughter is a night owl like her mother and I can hear her moving around or playing her ukulele at night until after midnight—even now that school has started.

My oldest daughter is a sophomore in high school and she has so much on her plate. Early morning seminary, cross country, violin, youth orchestra, and lots and lots of homework. Sleep is hard won for that girl, even though she desperately needs it.

Is your teenager getting enough sleep?

Last Friday she went to the football game with friends, and when she got home she crawled into my bed with me to tell me about it. She fell asleep mid-sentence, poor girl!

And then there’s my youngest, the one who has meltdowns every morning. It’s clear she’s not getting enough sleep, either, and she needs more of it than anyone else in the house.

I looked up the sleep recommendations for each age group. I was totally shocked. It’s confirmed, nobody in my house is getting enough sleep!

The official sleep recommendations for kids:

  • Ages 1-3 need 12-14 hours each day
  • Ages 3-6 need 10-12 hours each day
  • Ages 7-12 need 10-11 hours each day
  • Ages 12-18 need 8-9 hours each day

That’s a lot more sleep than we are getting at our house.

It’s hard to put sleep as a priority.

So, this is my wake-up call. Or, more accurately, my go-to-sleep call. I’m going to put sleep as a priority. It’s difficult, though, and not just because I’m a natural night owl.

It’s difficult because I have so much to do every day that I feel like I have to stay up late to get it all done. And then I have to get up early, too. While I still feel it’s pretty impossible to get in bed before midnight, I’m going to do my very best to get in bed by 11:30 tonight.

And then I’m going to move that up to 11:00 next week. Baby steps.

I’m also going to work on better night time routines for the kids. It won’t be easy, they’re super busy kids and evenings can be crazy. But if I can at least get my youngest in bed an hour earlier, it will all be worth it.

I’ve just got to hold onto the idea of a morning free of meltdowns! I’ll let you know how it goes.

This post is part of my 31 Days to a Happier Home series. 

To see all the posts in this series, click here: 31 Days to a Happier Home

This post may contain affiliate links, for more information, please see my disclosure.
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