How Much Sleep Does My Child Need? A Guide for Parents

Whether you’ve just brought your newborn home from the hospital, you’re dealing with the terrible twos, or are the proud parent of a ten year old, ensuring that your child gets the right amount of sleep is essential to keeping them happy and healthy. The sleep your child gets each night impacts both their mental and physical development, which means establishing regular sleep patterns is extremely important. Below, we’ll talk about how much sleep your child needs, no matter what their age, and provide some tips to helping them get enough ‘Z’s. These are general guidelines for most children, if you have any specific questions or concerns about your child, making an appointment with your provider will give you an individualized guidance and sleep strategies that work for you and your family. One size does not fit all when it comes to sleep!

 

Newborns (0-3 months)

At this stage of your child’s life, not only are they going to need a lot of sleep, but their sleep-wake cycles – or Circadian rhythms – have not been established. This means that your child will sleep between 10.5 and 18 hours a day at intervals of anywhere between a few minutes to several hours. Their sleep will likely appear restless, with plenty of twitching, smiling, and squirming.

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Tips for Getting your Newborn to Sleep:

  • Pay attention to how your baby acts when he or she is tired, and try to put baby in his or her crib when they are tired – but not asleep – as often as possible. This will help baby learn to fall asleep on his or her own.
  • Encourage your newborn to sleep less during the day by playing with them as well as exposing them to stimulation such as light and noise. While providing a more calming environment in the evening.
  • When putting your child to sleep, lay them on their back with their faces and heads completely free of any blankets or soft items.

 

Infants (4-11 months)

Infancy is the stage during which sleep patterns are learned. At this age, your child will need between 9-12 hours of sleep at night, with supplemental 30 minute to 2-hour naps throughout the day. In the earlier months, your child may have some issues sleeping through the night, though 70-80 percent of children will have no problem with this by the time they reach nine months of age.

Infancy is also the time during which attachment and social development can impact sleep. Your child may express some separation anxiety, which can make bedtime more difficult. To combat this, continue to put your infant to bed when they are tired, but not asleep, which will help them to learn to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own.

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Tips for Getting your Infant to Sleep:

  • Consistency is key – develop a regular bedtime schedule and routine so that your child can develop regular sleep patterns.
  • Create a comfortable, “sleep-friendly” environment free of stimulating lights and sounds.

 

Toddlers (1-2 years)

Toddlers can seem like unstoppable little balls of energy at times, but at this stage, your child needs between 11-14 hours of sleep per day/night. Naps become a once-a-day ritual and should occur earlier in the day to avoid a disruption in nighttime sleep. Sleep problems are common for Toddlers, including resistance at bedtime, nightmares, and nighttime wakefulness. This can be a difficult stage.

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Tips for Getting your Toddler to Sleep:

  • Have an established bedtime and bedtime ritual, as well as consistency with naps.
  • If your child is having a difficult time sleeping, it is important that rules are set and enforced. If they are afraid, giving them a security blanket or stuffed animal can help them to soothe their fears and establish healthy sleep habits.

 

Preschoolers (3-5 years)

At this stage, your child’s imagination has the tendency to run wild, which can lead to issues ranging from general fear of the night to sleepwalking to night terrors. Your child still needs 11-13 hours of sleep, and as naps become less frequent, an established sleep schedule is essential.

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Tips for Getting your Preschooler to Sleep:

  • Introduce a relaxing ritual, like reading before bed, in the room in which your child sleeps.
  • Consistency is still extremely important. Your child should sleep in the same room, and observe a set bedtime.
  • Though your child may love TV at this point, watching TV before bed, especially in their sleeping environment, is ill advised.

 

School-aged Children (6-13 years)

At this age, your child needs between 9-11 hours of sleep per night. Demands on your child’s time and energy are increasing, with homework, sports, friends, and more. Your child is also likely to consume more caffeine, and participate in a growing amount of “screen-time” – on computers, watching TV, on mobile devices – all things which can negatively impact your child’s sleep quality and duration.

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Tips for Getting your School-aged Child to Sleep:

  • Talk to your children, and teach them about healthy sleep patterns.
  • Keep a consistent bedtime.
  • Keep computers and televisions our of your child’s room.
  • Avoid giving your children caffeine, and talk to them about caffeine consumption as they head into their teens.

 

Sleep can be a difficult thing for children, so help your child get the sleep they need by paying attention to bedtimes, bedtime rituals, and the amount of sleep that is appropriate for their age.