There are few things parents obsess over like sleep. It’s a topic that leads to countless questions and self-doubt:
Is my child getting enough sleep?
Am I creating good sleep habits?
Are we following safe sleeping guidelines?
And on and on and on.
Fortunately, if you’re worried about the amount of sleep your child is getting, there’s a super simple solution to that -– child sleep calculators!
That’s right. Rather than questioning yourself and trying to do the mental math in your head, you can just consult a sleep calculator. At a quick glance, you’ll know whether your child is getting enough sleep.
Why you might want to use sleep calculators
Doctors and educators alike report many school-aged children are getting inadequate sleep. But many parents don’t realize just how much sleep their children need. This can be especially tricky because kids will deny being tired.
In fact, in a cruel twist of fate, overtired children frequently behave in ways that suggest they’re not tired at all. You might see a preschooler jumping up and down at 8:30 PM with seemingly boundless energy and think, “He’s not ready for bed yet.”
But chances are, you’re wrong.
A sleep calculator to help you calculate the best bedtime
You may know your child needs 10 hours of sleep based on his age. You may also know what time he needs to get up for school.
But that’s not the full sleep picture. You need to do a little math to work backward and figure out the best corresponding bedtime.
Orrrrrr. . . You could just let a sleep calculator do that work.
All of my kids are like this. If they go to bed at 7:30 PM or 11:00 PM, they’re pretty much always up before 7:00 AM. (Please send help and coffee!)
This sleep calculator from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) can help you figure out the best bedtime based on your child’s default wake time.
For example, AASM’s sleep calculator tells me that my oldest needs to go to bed sometime between 7:00 PM and 10:00 PM, since he’ll be up by 7:00 AM. That’s a wide range, so it’s pretty easy to hit that target. Other than special occasions, we try to make sure he’s in his bed and relaxing around 8:30 PM.
A sleep calculator like this can also be helpful if you have firm wake-up times for daycare or school. You can make sure you hit your target without sacrificing your child’s sleep.
What if I want to use sleep calculators to manipulate my child’s wake time?
What if you have one of those rare, unicorn children who just sleep in later if they stay up later? You lucky duck, you!
In that case, you may just want to choose a bedtime that works best for your family. Wake time may be less of a concern. This sleep calculator from the National Sleep Foundation gives you that option.
You can enter the ideal bedtime for your child. Then, NSF’s sleep calculator will give you the corresponding wake time, based on age. If your child is more flexible with their wake time, or you don’t have time-sensitive morning obligations, this calculator might be a better fit for you.
What about the other child sleep calculators out there?
Honestly, I wouldn’t bother with any sleep calculator other than the two I mentioned. In order to write this article, I explored a lot of the top search results and many were disappointing. Some didn’t work at all. Others made the process unnecessarily complicated.
As an example, one suggested timing your child’s wake up so it coincided with the end of a sleep cycle. It gave me three wake-time choices over the course of a few hours.
Um . . . I’m sorry. I wasn’t aware I could miraculously coordinate the moment my child falls asleep, the exact end of their REM cycle, and the school bus schedule. How negligent of me! (Sarcasm, obviously.)
I suggest sticking with the basic, no-frills sleep calculators. And in the end, just do your best to ensure all members of your family get a sufficient amount of sleep as often as possible.