Now Reading
Is your child getting enough sleep for their age? UAE teachers reveal the exact time kids should go to bed to ensure schoolwork doesn’t suffer

Is your child getting enough sleep for their age? UAE teachers reveal the exact time kids should go to bed to ensure schoolwork doesn’t suffer

by Tabitha BardaJanuary 4, 2023

Do you ever struggle to get your child up for school in the morning? If your little one is cranky, sluggish or yawning at the breakfast table, they’re probably suffering from sleep deprivation that could be affecting their learning, warn UAE teachers. In fact, most UAE school children even admit themselves that they aren’t getting enough sleep, according to the KHDA’s Wellbeing Census of 189 Dubai Private Schools, and the Dubai school regulator recommends that an earlier bedtime would be key to improving children’s health and happiness.

In the survey of 108,224 Dubai students, pupils of all ages self-reported that they weren’t sleeping for long enough. Sleep deprivation was seen to increase as children got older – meaning that those studying for important public exams are particularly lacking in shuteye.

As children struggle this week to adapt back into the regular school bedtime routine after the Winter holidays, their lack of sleep can have an obvious impact on learning capabilities, say UAE teachers.

Ben Rothwell, Deputy Headteacher at Victory Heights Primary School in Dubai, said:

“As teachers, we often encounter children facing difficulties with their learning, and it is never surprising to learn, when speaking to that child’s parents, that these children have poor sleep routines. Children are often irritable, drowsy or exhibit difficulty in remembering even the simplest of things.”

There are countless medical studies that show how a lack of quality sleep can be the root cause of multiple problems – from behavioural issues, to learning difficultiesmood disorders and even toileting issues.

The American Academy of Paediatrics links school students’ sleep deprivation with a worrying spectrum of adverse outcomes: from difficulty concentrating and lowered academic performance, to increased risk of anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. It warns in its report that:

 “Insufficient sleep represents one of the most common, important, and potentially remediable health risks in children.”


How much sleep should your child get each night? 

So how much sleep should your child be getting?

A minimum of at least 10 hours’ sleep per night is vital for a growing child to be properly prepared for learning, says Victory Heights Primary School’s Mr Rothwell:

“Good sleep, both in terms of length (at least 10 hours) and sleep quality, is a hugely influential factor on children’s ability to learn.”

“A multitude of studies have demonstrated that a lack of sleep causes significant cognitive impairment – not ideal for blossoming young minds at school!”

The chart below sets out exactly the time at which sleep scientists say your children should be going to bed every night:

Do UAE schools start too early?

However, some parents argue that the problem is with the unrealistically early start times of many UAE schools. The majority of private and public UAE schools start from around 7.30am, with arrival times from 7am not uncommon. This is much earlier than the norm in countries such as the UK, US, India and Australia, where classes usually start between 8am and 9am. And learning often does not kick off until between 9am and 9.45am in schools in Finland, which is often perceived to have one of the most successful education systems in the world.

Some UAE schools are taking note and instigating later start times to help students get a sufficient amount of sleep.

Bloom World Academy has an official start time of 9am, although parents are able to drop their children off as school any time from 7am if needed for their work schedules. John Bell, Principal of Bloom World Academy, explains:

“At Bloom World Academy we are the only school in the UAE to start the official school day at 9am. We believe this is fundamental to rebalancing family life.”

“The early starts at other schools mean children are often tired through the day.”

“The early starts mean even earlier starts for teachers – so their well-being, family life and preparation for their teaching day is affected.”

“That said, at BWA we also acknowledge families need and want flexibility – so the school is open from 7am to 7pm – and families can make bespoke decisions about what works for them.”

A later start time has also been adopted by schools such as Dubai British School Jumeirah Park – which reportedly has successfully switched from a 7.30am start to an 8.15am start this academic year 2022/2023 – and Jumeira Baccalaureate School, which also opted to delay its former 7.30am start-time to an 8.15am start in August 2021.

Read more about UAE school start times and Principals’ and parents’ views on whether UAE school start too early here. 

The right amount of sleep for your child’s age

Delving deeper into the science, there is some flexibility when it comes to the exact time that your child goes to sleep, and different children will need different amounts of sleep, within certain boundaries.

The National Sleep Foundation states that sufficient sleep duration requirements vary across the lifespan and from child to child. It offers a set of recommendations that are appropriate for all healthy individuals who are not suffering from a sleep disorder.

The National Sleep Foundation Age-By-Age Sleep Chart

Age Recommended number of hours May be appropriate number of hours Not recommended number of hours
0-3 mo
14 to 17 11 to 13
18 to 19
Less than 11
More than 19
4-11 mo
12 to 15 10 to 11
16 to 18
Less than 10
More than 18
1-2 y
11 to 14 9 to 10
15 to 16
Less than 9
More than 16
3-5 y
10 to 13 8 to 9
Less than 8
More than 14
School-aged children
6-13 y
9 to 11 7 to 8
Less than 7
More than 12
14-17 y
8 to 10 7
Less than 7
More than 11
Young adults
18-25 y
7 to 9 6
10 to 11
Less than 6
More than 11


How to help your child achieve good sleep

Ben Rothwell, Deputy Headteacher at Victory Heights Primary School, shares his advice:

Sleep routines are important for us all, but especially for young children. Consider:

  • No devices for at least an hour before bedtime
  • Choose a regular bedtime that allows at least 10 hours sleep before the child needs to wake up
  • Engage in physical activity in the late afternoon/evening
  • Don’t eat too close to bedtime, as digestion issues can impair sleep
  • Wind down before bed, consider calming activities like taking a bath to reduce stimulation

Do you think your child’s recommended bed-time is realistic? Or do you think UAE schools should all shift to a later start time to help students get more sleep? Please share your thoughts with [email protected].

© A WhichMedia Group publication. 2023. All rights reserved.

About The Author
Tabitha Barda
Tabitha Barda is the Senior Editor of Oxbridge educated and an award winning journalist in the UAE for more than a decade, Tabitha is one of the region's shining lights in all that is education in the emirates. A mum herself, she is passionate about helping parents - and finding the stories in education that deserve telling. She is responsible for the busy 24x7 News Desk, our Advisory Boards and Specialist Panels - and's The School's Report - the global weekly round up of what matters in education for parents which is published every Friday, reviewing schools across the UAE - and features on issues that really matter. You can often find Tabitha on Parents United - our Facebook community board, discussing the latest schools and education issues with our parent community in the UAE - and beyond.

Leave a Reply