How Much Sleep Does my Child Need?
Did you know that one of the most common causes of poor sleep habits in children is purely because they are not getting enough sleep?
This may seem like a silly statement because obviously if they sleep poorly, they aren’t getting enough sleep BUT if we are not giving our children enough opportunity for the proper amount of sleep their body needs, it will be harder for them to learn to sleep. When children don’t nap well (either they miss their optimal sleep window, or they have a short (less than 45 minute) “disaster nap”, they experience a cortisol rush, which is a burst of energy. This cortisol stays in their system and contributes to a harder time falling asleep at bedtime AND more frequent night wakings. A terrible night of sleep also leads to a cortisol rush, which means awful daytime sleep. It’s a horrible cycle!
How do we break this cycle? Watch your child’s cues, catch their natural sleep windows, ensure they have adequate naps, and make sure bedtime is started early enough to be certain they get the required hours of zzzz’s during the night.
So what are those magical hours of sleep needed?
Newborns (0-3 months) need, on average, 14-17 hours of sleep. Some babies can get away with 11-13 hours and some need more (18-19 hours). More babies require more sleep than the average than less sleep. As sleep is very scattered during these first few months, much of this sleep will happen during the daytime. As your baby gets closer to 2-3 months, you want most of their awake time to be during the daytime. Naps often don’t start to regulate until after three months of age.
4-5 Month Old Babies
Babies between 4 and five months of age need 12-15 hours of sleep per 24 hour period. Some need 16-18 hours. Go by your baby’s tired signs and they will clue you in as to how much sleep your baby needs. 4-6 hours are daytime sleep (usually in 3 naps). The other 8-10 hours should be during the night.
6-8 Month Old Babies
Babies between six and eight months of age also need an average of 12-15 hours of sleep per day/night cycle. 10-11 hours or 16-18 hours may be appropriate. 10-11 hours should be uninterrupted night time sleep and the other 3-4 hours are during the day, usually divided between two or three naps.
These babies need the same amount of sleep as 6-8-month-old infants, but naps have likely moved to twice a day. Night sleep is closer to 11 hours and day sleep is approximately 3 hours.
The magic number for this age group is between 11 and 14 hours of sleep. 9-10 hours would be on the low end but still within the acceptable window, and 15-16 hours would be on the higher end. Most toddlers will happily bank just over 11 hours of night time sleep and 2-3 hours of daytime sleep. Between 15 and 18 months, most toddlers are ready to transition to one nap per day.
This age group needs the same amount of sleep as the 12-18-month-old group, however 11.25 hours may be night time sleep and 2-2.5 hours would be considered a decent afternoon nap.
2-3 Year Old Toddlers
Once, again the daily recommendations do not change for this age group, however their night time sleep drops to approximately 10.5 hours, while daytime sleep can be between 1-3 hours. Many children resist naps at this age, but most still need daytime sleep until closer to the age of 4.
3-4 Year Old Preschoolers
10-13 hours of sleep is the recommended amount per 24 hour period. Some children can get away with 8-9 and some need closer to 14. Watch your child’s sleep signs closely to determine their exact number. This often looks like 9-11 hours at night and 1-2 hours during the afternoon.
4-5 Year Old Preschoolers
This age stays in the same range as the 3-4 year olds, however many 4 year olds have dropped their nap altogether. They still need at least 45 minutes of quiet time during the afternoon to rest and recharge. By the time they reach 5, it is still very beneficial for them to have a quiet rest time during the afternoon.
Curious about how much sleep an adult needs? 7-9 hours is the amount of sleep that most adults need to restore themselves. Some adults get away with 6, and some need 10.
Is your child getting enough sleep? Does your child fall within the averages? On the low end? On the high end?
If you need help ensuring your child gets adequate sleep, call me for a FREE 15-minute consultation!
Certified Gentle Sleep Coach