How Much Sleep Do Children Need?

Published April 13, 2021

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Young girl hugs teddy bear in white bed

Children have much greater sleep needs than adults as sleep directly impacts on their physical and mental development. In fact, sleep is so important that by age two, most toddlers will have spent more time asleep than awake and children will have spent about 40% of their total childhood sleeping.

How much sleep do children need? The amount of sleep children need differs with age as well as between individuals. You can determine how much sleep your child should be getting by looking at the average requirements for their age.

How much sleep do children need?

The National Sleep Foundation provides the following recommendation on sleep requirements for all children of all ages:

  • Newborns (0 to 3 months) — 14–17 hours of sleep per night
  • Infants (4 to 11 months) — 12–15 hours of sleep per night
  • Toddlers (1 to 2 years) — 11–14 hours of sleep per night
  • Pre-schoolers (3 to 5 years) — 10–13 hours of sleep per night
  • Primary-school age (6 to 11 years) — 9–11 hours of sleep per night
  • High-school age (12 to 17 years) — 8–10 hours of sleep per night

You can also work out how much sleep children need by observing how they behave during the day. If they’re having trouble falling asleep, struggling to wake up and are fussy or cranky in the afternoon, it may because they’re not getting the sleep their body needs. A longer daytime nap or earlier bedtime could be considered.

How can I help my child sleep well?

If you’re concerned about your little one’s sleeping habits, rest assured that by the time a child reaches two years of age, sleep problems tend to improve. A new study found that it is common for infants to experience sleep problems, however as children go from newborn phase to six months, the time it takes them to fall asleep reduces to an average of 20 minutes. It also found that at two years of age, children only wake up once during the night on average.

If you feel worried that your child is not getting enough sleep, here are some tips and strategies you can implement which may help them fall asleep easier (and stay asleep when they do).

  • Make a sleep schedule — Identify when your child needs to sleep to make sure they get the right amount of sleep they need. Set a bedtime and stick to it every single night (yes, even on weekends!).
  • Develop a bedtime routine A routine could be: bathing, putting on pyjamas, teeth brushing, quiet time in their bedroom, turning the lights off and going to sleep. Whatever routine you decide on, it’s best to stick to it.
  • Have wind down time — Relaxing before bed can be hard some kids, but perhaps wind down activities such as soft music or reading a book can be helpful to settle down.
  • Create a sleep sanctuary — Make the bedroom quiet and dark. If your child is anxious or feels scared about going to sleep, use a night light.
  • Avoid caffeine — Encourage your child to avoid consuming caffeine, especially in the afternoon. Caffeine is not only found in coffee but also in chocolate, cola and sports drinks.
  • Avoid technology Shut down electronic devices at least one hour before bed. Reducing exposure to the blue light from screens should help your child sleep better.

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