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How Much Sleep Does Your Child Need

Published Dec 7, 2016 | Updated Feb 19, 2020

We all know that adequate sleep is crucial for our child’s physical and mental development but how much is adequate sleep?

We all know that adequate sleep is crucial for our child’s physical and mental development but how much is adequate sleep? For us adults, the recommended 7-8 hours of nightly sleep is a pretty clear and set standard. The sleep routine and requirements for children however, change as they grow and develop.


Based on the guidelines for child sleep requirement provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics and advice from top sleep experts, we have put together a brief guide for the ideal sleep patterns for your children based on their age group as a bonus we’ve rounded up the best tips on how to help your child achieve it.

Newborns 0 - 4 Months

Newborns sleep can sleep for up to a whopping 18 hours a day! They sleep around the clock and have short frequent sleep wake cycles. The reason that they do not follow a day and night pattern is that they have a tiny stomach and need to be fed and changed every 2-3 hours and also because they are still developing an internal clock. This can be challenging for parents but managing their sleep routines is important to establish good sleeping habits earlier on. Here are a few tips:

Most newborns cannot go to sleep on their own and you will have to help them fall asleep. They will express their need for sleep in different ways such as rubbing eyes, pulling ears, fussing, staring at objects and yawning.

Gradually teach them the difference between day and night by exposing him to bright light and playing with him most during the day. At night try to interact less, keep the environment calm and the lights dim so your baby can learn that night time is for rest and daytime is for play.

After nursing or rocking your baby, place him in the crib when he's drowsy but not asleep so he can learn fall to sleep on his own.

Infants 4-12 Months

For infants aged 4- 12 months, the recommended hours of sleep are 12- 16. At this stage the baby begins to develop a sleep pattern, their daytime naps decrease and nightly sleep increases. After 6 months, night time feed is not a necessity, so babies can learn to sleep for up to 7 hours at a stretch. Most babies learn to sleep through the night by the 9th month and you can help yours achieve that routine with the following tips.

·         Just as with newborns, give babies at this age a chance to sleep on their own by putting to bed drowsy but not sleepy. This way children become self soothers and can go back to sleep easily if their sleep is disrupted during the night instead of crying for their parents to help them fall back to sleep.

·         Establish a regular, consistent and enjoyable bedtime routine which can include activities such as giving the baby a bath and changing him into comfortable clothes.

Also, keep the environment sleep friendly by dimming the lights and avoiding any noise such as that of a TV near the baby's bedroom.

Children 1-2 Years

Children of 1-2 years of age require 11-14 hours of sleep. When they reach about 18 months, they will only take a nap once during the day. Make sure your child takes a nap in the afternoon and doesn't nap close to bedtime, or else he won't be tired enough to fall asleep during his actual bedtime.

You can add reading a book to your child to make their nightly routine more enjoyable.

At this stage your child may begin to experience a different set of sleep problems such as resistance to sleep and having nightmares. Talk to your child about his fears and reassure him by telling him that he doesn't need to be afraid and that you'll be around. Also, encourage the use of a security object such as blanket or a stuffed toy.

Set limits that are consistent and enforced so your child knows that once he is in bed, he has to stay in bed. If your child gets out of bed, calmly take him back without overreacting. If you argue or give in to requests you're giving him the extra attention he wants to avoid bedtime.

Children 3 - 5 Years

Children in this age group should sleep 10-13 hours a day. This is the time when children start preschool so it's even more important to have regular daytime and bedtime schedules.

Starting school and interacting with the outside world further develops their imagination, which is why preschoolers commonly experience nighttime fears and nightmares. You must reassure them and provide them with a sense of security. An effective way to help them deal with this is to guide with your own example, tell them how you would cope with such fears.

This is also the time when children begin to take interest in tablets and iPads. Limit the exposure of these electronic devices. No screens at least 30 minutes before bed.

Don’t give your kids any sweet treats such as candies, ice creams or chocolates near bedtime because the high sugar content in these can disrupt their sleep.

Children 6-12 Years

For children aged 6 -12 years, the ideal amount of sleep is 9-12 hours. At this stage children hardly nap during the afternoon and become increasingly busy with homework from school, extracurricular activities and playing with friends.

Also they become more interested in TV and video games. The light from these devices can prevent your child from sleeping so it's best to avoid the use of any electronic devices close to bedtime and keep them out of your child’s bedroom.

Also avoid giving caffeinated drinks such as soda to your child close to bedtime as the caffeine can have negative effect on your child’s sleep.

Teach your child the importance of sleep and help them understand that sleep is not a form of punishment but an essential part of their growth and development.

Sleep deprivation among children is very common and according to the National Sleep Foundation a lot of children are getting lesser sleep than experts recommend. It's advisable to compare your child's sleep time with this guide to make sure that your child's getting adequate rest. Remember the sleep habits that you establish now for your child will last a lifetime.

By Eugene Gabriel John
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