How much sleep do babies and kids need? The answer to that question depends very much on the age of the kids! Are your kids 4, 14 or 24 years old? Some adults act as though they were still kids. For our purposes here we shall call a halt at 17 years. Let’s start with babies.
How Much Sleep Do Kids Need?
|Newborn||0 to 3 months|
|Infant||4 to 12 months|
|Toddler||1 to 2 years|
|Preschool||3 to 5 years|
|School Age||6 to 12 years|
|Teenagers||13 to 17 years|
When discussing how much sleep do kids need, we are referring to children over a wide age spread, where the need for sleep varies widely. We shall focus here on children aged up to 12 years. We refer to children of 4 months to a year old as infants and then they become toddlers. It is not possible to define a child’s sleep requirements purely on age, but these definitions should be sufficient for our needs. So let’s begin with babies aged up to 4 months old.
Babies (0 – 4 months)
Babies are developing rapidly from the minute they are born. They are growing both physically and mentally at a very fast rate. For that reason, they need more sleep than children older than them. Around 14 hours to 17 hours of sleep is not excessive for babies and down to 11 hours may also be healthy. This sleeping time can be split into 2 – 3 hourly periods. Babies tend to wake up frequently for feeding or changing, but an overall sleeping time of somewhere between 14 and 17 hours is good.
What parents should understand is that there is no hard and fast rule governing the amount of sleep that children of any age will need. While one baby might sleep all night long another may sleep in fits and starts. They may sleep for a few hours, wake up and cry, perhaps want to feed, and then fall asleep again. The same is true of children of any age – there is no rule that they follow regarding sleep.
Infants: (4 – 12 months)
Infants should sleep for about 15 hours every 24 hours. Some infants may sleep for less (around 12 hours) although 15 hours is common. This is the age when your child begins to adopt more adult-like sleeping habits. After 6 months, your child should be down to just two naps a day and should be able to sleep throughout the night between 6 months and a year old.
Toddlers (1 – 2 years)
Toddlers are usually full of energy, and for some reason, they sometimes appear to become more active just before bedtime. The usual reason for that is that they don’t want to go to bed! Babies have little choice, but toddlers often try to delay their bedtime and stay awake with their toys or TV. One solution is to switch off all electronic devices. Their grandparents, and likely also their parents, had no electronic distractions to keep them awake. Children of this age should sleep around 11 – 14 hours daily.
Preschool Children (3 – 5 Years)
Children over 4 years old should be in bed by sometime between 7 pm and 9 pm and should waken up between 6 am and 8 am. This is the period during which they begin to adopt adult sleeping habits. They will normally have few if any naps, the vast majority of their sleeping time being at night.
Children 6 – 12 Years Old
Beyond 7 years of age, children will find they only need 10 Hours sleep. A bedtime of 9 or 10 pm will be associated with a waking time of 7 or 8 am. These will likely be extended at weekends, although the average sleeping time for 6 – 12 year olds should be around 9 hours – or 10 hours at a push.
Finally teenagers from 13 years old upwards. They will likely decide their own sleeping times – from all day to zero! However, a healthy sleeping time is 8 – 9 hours daily. Today’s teenagers are adults, and this level of sleep is sufficient for them. In fact, anything between 8 and 10 hours of sleep is suitable for teenagers. Anything outwith these limits will likely be problematic since teenagers need their sleep but are the first to claim they do not!
How do you make sure your children have these recommended sleeping times? It is not easy, but for most, particularly the younger children, a comfortable bed and mattress designed specifically for their age group would be a great start. Check out our best mattress for kids and our 5 recommendations for the best rated mattress for teenagers.
Bedtime Routines for Children
If you want your children to get to bed and to sleep with the minimum of fuss then get them into a bedtime routine. We are referring to evening here, not daytime naps. Make bedtime the same time every night. A reasonable routine would include some or all of the following elements:
- A warm bath.
- Pajamas on.
- Brush teeth.
- The child goes to bed.
- Bedtime story – either a complete short story or part of one to be continued each night. This would help make children keen to get to bed for the next part of the story.
- Make sure there is no noise or other distraction in the room, such as no TV on in the bedroom.
- Say a prayer if you are religious, then say goodnight to your child and leave the bedroom.
There are a few things you should avoid at bedtime. Among these are:
- Do not let your child sleep in your bed. Not only does this promote bad sleeping habits, but your child could be suffocated if a parent rolls over on top of it. Also, if your child wakes up during the night he or she may find it difficult to get to sleep again with an adult lying beside them.
- Do not respond to your child calling for you if they waken up during the night. This will get your child used to you coming to them when they awaken. If you cuddle your child to sleep again, both babies and toddlers will associate waking up with cuddles and will expect them. They may never learn how to get back to sleep by themselves. There is only one reason for you to tend to awakened child: if they are ill or sick.
Are Naps Regarded as Sleep?
A nap and a sleep at nighttime are not the same. Young children and babies both need naps as well as sleeping during the night. Once your child reaches 6 months old, naps are normal and should be expected. They can last from 30 minutes to 2 hours, but should not be needed after 2 to 5 years old.
The reason for naps needed after the age of 5 should be investigated. If your child naps, then the period spent napping can be added to their nighttime sleep to calculate the total time they spend sleeping.
How Much Sleep Do Babies and Kids Need: Summary
How much sleep do babies and kids need? It depends on the kids. Some children need more or less sleep than others, but there are recommended limits that parents should try to keep to for their kids. Depending on their age, some children will want to sleep less or sleep more. The older they get, the less they want to sleep. Once they feel independent, at around 3 to 4 years old, many will tend to fight against going to sleep – and even against going to bed in some cases! They are not being bad, simply being children who want to be the same as their parents.
The recommendations above are just that – recommendations. However, they have been provided by doctors and pediatricians as a guide for parents on the optimum hours of sleep their children should get each day. The numbers are not hard and fast rules, although you should try to meet the sleeping periods recommended for your age of baby or child. A specific number of hours need not be taken in one stretch, but can be the accumulated time spent napping and in longer periods of sleep.
To repeat: how much sleep do children need? They will likely decide that themselves. Children tend to fall asleep when they are tired. If they have a regular sleeping routine and fall out of it, then perhaps you should find the reason why. It is generally the case that only teenagers may occasionally not get the proper amount of sleep that they need. Babies and toddlers will tend to fall asleep when they are tired. Most parents know when their children need sleep and when they don’t. How much sleep do babies and kids need? The babies and kids know – as normally the parents know as well.