The Importance of Sleep

Click here to see the video presentation shared further down this page

Sleep is important for many reasons:

  • It refreshes and restores energy levels

  • It’s important for learning and memory

  • It helps to fight against illness and enables injuries to repair

  • Physical well-being

  • Psychological well-being and mood

  • Enhances work or school performance

  • Effects concentration abilities

  • Poor sleep impacts wellbeing of both the young person and parent or carer.

Recommended Sleep Time (The American Academy of Sleep Medicine)


Amount of sleep recommended in a 24-hour period

4-12 months

12-16 hours (including naps)

1-2 years

11-14 hours (including naps)

3-5 years

10-13 hours (including naps)

6-12 years

9-12 hours

13-18 years

8-10 hours

How common are sleep problems?

In general, less than 3 out of 10 children experience sleep problems.

Around 8 out of 10 children with an intellectual disability experience sleep problems which tend to be more persistent.

Statistics show that 50 to 65% of children with cerebral palsy and 65 to 83% of autistic children have sleep difficulties.

Your body clock

Your ‘body clock’ is your own body’s natural need to do activities each day, for example to sleep at night and eat at certain times of the day. You can help 'set' your body clock to the correct times by following a regular daily routine.

Setting your body clock is affected by external factors such the light and dark cycle each day, temperature or your eating and drinking cycles. These external factors are referred to as ‘Zeitgebers'. Zetigeber is the German word for ‘time giver’ or time cues. Zeitgebers are a signal to your body to do something.

Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene refers to a set of habits and practices you put in place that support you and/or your child to sleep well on a regular basis. It’s a way for you to also put to use the signals (Zeitgebers) in your day that will tell your body it’s time to get ready to sleep. These include what you eat before bed, the temperature of your bedroom, and low-lighting in your room.

Important things to consider for sleep hygiene would be:


  • Bedding

  • Bedroom temperature

  • Noise level in bedroom

  • Ambient lighting


  • Regular bedtime

  • Regular wake time

Sleep Practices

  • Have a regular bedtime routine. For example, for your child, this might be a quiet bath, a familiar blanket, and story time.

  • Avoid routines that depend solely on the caregiver, for example, rocking a child to sleep each night. This discourages ‘self-soothing’.

Physiological (body-related)

  • Calming activities at night rather than vigorous activities

  • Light snack before bedtime

    • Foods to help with sleeping better:
      • Bananas

      • Oats

      • Peanuts

      • Warm milk

      • Yoghurt

      • Almonds

      • Honey

      • Turkey

Using a sleep diary

A sleep diary is a tool used to track and observe your child's sleep and sleep routine.

The parent or carer is asked to track their child’s sleep routine using a sleep diary over the course of 7 nights.

The tool is then used to look for patterns or behaviours or different factors influencing your child's sleep.

The sleep diary will then be used as a really useful tool to problem solve with the CDNT to see what practical supports or strategies can be put in place to support better sleep.

A tool for teaching: bedtime pass

A bedtime pass is a useful tool for older children. This is a card or object that your child presents to you if they wake at night. Your child can use it in exchange for something brief, such as a hug or a glass of water.

They may only use the pass one time during the night and once the pass is used it is given to the parent.

If the pass is not used all night, it can be exchanged for a sticker. Accumulating a number of stickers can be exchanged for a special treat. It can be something simple like spending time with you.


This video on 'The Importance of Sleep in Children' was delivered by the Waterford South City CDNT. If you have any questions about sleep, please contact your local CDNT. You will find all of the contact details for the Dublin South Kildare and West Wicklow CDNTs here



For more information:

The Sleep Programme - Youth Information (

Sleep | Autism Speaks

Search (

Gateway to good sleep - Sleep Scotland

CCI - Sleep Resources for Clinicians (

Home - Teen Sleep Hub

Home - The Sleep Charity