Do Gifted Children Need Less Sleep?

Do Gifted Kids Need Less Sleep? {Establishing Better Sleep Habits}


In a word… maybe.


Do Gifted Children Need Less Sleep


Google it, and you’ll find all sorts of articles that include “needs less sleep” as a common characteristic of a gifted child. And that certainly seems to be true in my experience.

My own kids have always been horrible sleepers as compared to my friends’ kids. Parents of gifted kids I taught would come in for meetings in the morning bleary-eyed and clutching large travel mugs of coffee. And, one of my favorite readers routinely posts status updates that include her need for more coffee and chocolate. {And I do too – as I’m sitting here typing at 1:53 p.m. with a 6-pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs and a freshly-brewed SECOND pot of coffee.}

Do any of these statements sound familiar?


My baby never seemed to sleep…ever.

My son struggles to shut his mind down so much that I always go to bed before him, and he’s STILL up before me.

My daughter wakes all through the night…and then wakes me.

I am just so exhausted, and have been for the last 15 years.


Many parents complain that their gifted kids have an intensity, a drive, that just won’t quit. They never slow down. They never stop talking. They never seem to rest.

Mine don’t.

But…yours might.

When I posted the teaser to this post on Instagram and asked about the gifted a kids of my followers, I got both affirmatives and negatives. More moms who read and follow say that their kids seem to need less sleep, but a few said theirs needed more.

And, when I sifted through recent research while I prepped for my recent webinar on managing intense kids, I found references to findings that suggest gifted and intense kids might actually need more sleep than their peers, but have more trouble shutting it down. This makes them appear to need less, but their bodies are actually craving way more sleep than they’re getting.

It’s an interesting thought. And I think those researchers might be onto something.

My kids – and many gifted and intense kids I’ve worked with – struggle when they’re tired. They act up. They argue more. They negotiate and fuss when they don’t get their way. They react more strongly to disappointments.

What if their lack of sleep is the cause, and not a common characteristic?



Do Gifted Children Need Less Sleep


Regardless of your stance on the issue – gifted kids require less sleep vs. gifted kids are sleep-deprivedthese kids need help establishing better sleep habits.

So, what can we do?

Determine the Issue

First, before you can solve your child’s sleep problems, you need to get to the root of it. What is the trouble?

Some gifted kids…

  • just aren’t tired. It might be that simple. Your child really might not be tired. Some kids really do need less sleep than others, and yours might be one of those children.


  • need to unwind. If you have a sensitive child, an introvert, or one that requires a lot of alone time, your kiddo might not be able to shift easily from family mode to bedtime easily. He may need time to process the events of the day before he can settle into sleep.


  • don’t want to miss anything. If there’s something going on, even something as simple as older siblings staying up to watch a movie, a young gifted child may not be able to focus on anything other than what she is missing outside of her bedroom. This can cause anxiety and adrenaline to surface, making it even more difficult to sleep.


  • cannot shut down their brains. My son used to tell me that he couldn’t “turn off” his brain and when he laid down to sleep it felt like everything was buzzing loudly in his head. He couldn’t figure out how to flip the switch {and still can’t at 11 years old}. I’m actually the same way. I do my best work late into the night. It’s like I need the day to let ideas percolate, and then they fly through my fingertips at night. Unfortunately {for both me and my son}, the world – and my other children – goes by a different schedule. So, when we’re ready to sleep in and lounge until noon, the day is half over for the rest of the world.


Establish Individualized Routines

Like most parenting advice found out there in books and on websites, the norm isn’t always normal for gifted kids. You may read that a calming bath, followed by a story, and and sweet tuck-in with prayers is the widely suggested bedtime routine to follow.


If your child is particularly sensitive or intense, as gifted kids often are, a warm bath may actually raise her body temperature, making it harder for her to fall asleep.

The extremely inquisitive child may not settle after hearing a book, wanting to talk about why the main character did that instead of what he would have done.

Your extroverted child may not be able to simply say prayers and drift off to sleep, he may need to tell you


Do Gifted Kids Need Less Sleep


You need to know your child and consider his or her unique needs. Here are some suggestions.

  • Create a cue, or come up with a prop, to help your child shut their brain off. When Trevor was really young, we “turned” his brain off with an imaginary switch on the back of his neck. Whatever you use, make sure that you and your child recognize it as the signal to calm down and relax.


  • Include calming supplements in your child’s routine {make sure you do your own research on this}. When our kids are struggling, we may give them a low dose of melatonin or magnesium. There are many different products out there, but we like Natural Calm.


  • Start bedtime earlier to include talk time. If your child needs to unload all those thoughts that are spinning through her head, give yourself {and your child} a bit more time to allow for that. If you have 1/2 hour built in to chat, you won’t feel put out by the fact she wants to tell you all those details now. Set a timer and listen.


  • Rub your child’s back. This is especially good for those kids that have sensory needs. If I take the time to sit with Logan and rub her back, not only does she fall asleep faster, she stays asleep longer. It’s worth the extra time it takes because the return is so great – for both of us.


  • Have your child relax instead of trying to fall asleep. I don’t know about you, but if I try to fall asleep, I’ll likely lie in bed for a lot longer, wide awake thinking about why I can’t fall asleep, effectively sabotaging myself. It’s the same for our kids. Molly often struggles with this, so we tell her that she doesn’t have to sleep, she just has to lie in her bed and relax. Usually she falls asleep within minutes of relaxing.


  • Use essential oils to calm your child. I love spritzing lavender oil onto the kids pillows and diffusing another calming scent in the air. It helps everyone feel better.


  • Try – especially for your introverted child – creating a cocoon with a bed tent or canopy. This is on my current to-do list for Logan. She creates “nests” out of pillows and blankets all the time and currently sleeps on a bottom bunk, so I plan to make her curtains so she can shut out the outside world and snuggle in with her light-up pillow pet.

It’s important to realize that not all of these are necessary, and they may not even be a fit for you, your child, or your family. The bottom line is that every child is different, and gifted – and intense – kids are even more different.

You need to find the perfect routine for your child.

And that begins by knowing him or her better than anyone else.

Do you have other suggestions to add to the list? What works for your child?

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