How much sleep do babies and children need?
If you join any parenting forum out there then you are likely to see a huge amount of threads along the lines of: “My baby sleeps too much”, “My baby never sleeps” and “how much sleep should my toddler be having?” You will also see a huge range of answers from other parents, some with several children and some who have just had their first. While we have already touched on the subject in our How much sleep do I need article, here we will take a look at the recommended hours of sleep babies and toddlers need for good development and how you can help them to achieve that.
Sleep is essential for healthy development and according to research by the National Sleep Foundation a child spends around 40% of their childhood sleeping. The table below gives their recommendations for how much sleep your child should be getting.
|0-3 months||16-17 hours|
|4-11 months||14-15 hours|
|12-24 months||11-14 hours|
|3-5 years||11-13 hours|
|6-13 years||9-11 hours|
Newborns and sleep (0-3 months)
Sleep during the first 3 months of life takes place pretty much around the clock, as any new parent will tell you. Babies tend to stick to a sleep-wake cycle that only changes when the need feeding or changing. In the first few weeks, it may in fact seem like your baby is rarely awake. This is normal, as being born is an exhausting experience and they will be busy growing which takes a considerable amount of energy. It is important to look out for your baby’s cues that they are tired so that you can help them to get into a sleep routine. Put them in their cot whilst they are sleepy but not sleeping in order to help them learn about sleep. Babies usually sleep as much as 16-17 hours at this stage.
Infants and sleep (4-11 months)
By the time your baby is 6 months old, you will have begun to introduce solid foods. However, milk is still their primary food source and they may still require feeding in the night. This is still normal. Sleep will have reduced, and you will have noticed patterns for naps and overnight sleep. Your infant may be napping for between 30 minutes to 2 hours as often as 4 times during the day, and sleeping at night for around 9-12 hours, it really depends on your baby. A good sleep routine should have begun to take shape, and you may have begun to gently sleep train your child by putting them in their cot when it approaches nap time and they are sleepy. Your infant should be sleeping around 14-15 hours a day.
Toddlers and sleep (12-24 months)
Your toddler will be becoming much more active during this period, and will probably have started walking at some point. Some toddlers may prefer longer naps and shorter nights, while other will power nap and the sleep longer overnight. Child sleep really does vary from one child to another. By the time they are around 18 months, they may drop a nap and only nap for between 1-3 hours during the day. It is a good idea to ensure that this doesn’t happen close to bedtime otherwise they will not sleep. They may begin to struggle with sleep issues such as night terrors (more information can be found in our ‘Common sleep problems for children and babies’ blog). You may find introducing sleep training clocks helpful at this stage to help with early waking. You toddler will need around 11-14 hours of sleep in total over a period of 24 hours.
Preschoolers and sleep (3-5 years)
Once your child reaches the age of 5, they will probably have dropped all naps. Any naps that do occur will usually coincide with a busy day out and a car trip home or illness. They may also experience more issues falling asleep at bedtime and they may wake in the night. There are some big developmental milestones that your child will be reaching at this point which can set their imaginations racing. Sleepwalking is not uncommon during the preschool years. Your pre-schooler should be sleeping for between 11-13 hours.
School aged children and sleep (6-13)
Children in this age group have more demands on their time with school, sports and playing out with friends. They can also be more interested in the television and electronics. These can disrupt their sleep so ensure that bedtime is a gadget-free time and implement a ban on gadgets for an hour before bedtime. Bedrooms should be dark cool and quiet so no tvs in the room either. You child may also experience more anxieties which can make getting to sleep harder. They should be sleeping between 9-11 hours per night.
Teenagers and sleep
Teen sleep should last for around 8-9 hours a day. As any parent who has teenagers will tell you, they try to stay up late, are dead to the world in the morning when you need them to wake up and could sleep all day if you let them. Try and stick to a good routine – taming a lion might be easier though!
If you’re concerned about your child not getting enough sleep, then it could be a good idea to speak to your health visitor or GP to air your concerns. They will be able to give you advice on what to do about any sleep problems your child may be experiencing.