All of us need sleep — especially children. Have you ever wondered how much sleep is adequate for your child? The National Sleep Foundation offers the following information about the importance of sleep in children. It is the primary activity of the brain during early development.
The sleep-wake cycle is regulated by light and dark and these rhythms take time to develop. This causes the irregular sleep schedules of newborns. The rhythms start to develop at about six weeks, and by three to six months most infants have a regular sleep-wake cycle. By the age of two, most children have spent more time asleep than awake and overall, a child will spend 40 percent of his or her childhood asleep. Sleep is especially important for children as it directly impacts mental and physical development.
Sleep needs vary from one child to another, but there are science-based guidelines that may help you determine if your child is getting the sleep they need for optimal health. Here’s a closer look at the sleep needs of children at different ages.
Newborns (0-3 months)
Newborns should be sleeping for 10-18 hours daily. Their schedule varies quite a bit — typically with sleep interrupted by awake periods of 1-3 hours. They should be active while they sleep — twitching their arms and legs, smiling, sucking and generally appearing restless.
You will know they need sleep when they show signs such as fussing, crying, or rubbing their eyes.
It is recommended to put babies to bed when they are sleepy but are not asleep yet. This should help them to fall asleep fast and learn how to get themselves to sleep.
Sleep Tips for Newborns
- Observe the baby’s sleep patterns and identify signs of sleepiness.
- Put the baby in the crib when drowsy, not asleep.
- Place the baby to sleep on his/her back with the face and head clear of blankets and other soft items.
- Encourage nighttime sleep.
Sleep and Infants (4-11 months)
Infant children should sleep for 9-12 hours during the night. During the day, they should be taking a couple of naps that range from 30-120 minutes. Putting your infant to bed when they are tired but not asleep increases their likelihood of becoming a “self-soother” and falling asleep on their own at bedtime. When they get used to assistance from parents, they can learn to cry for your help to get back to sleep during the night.
Sleep Tips for Infants
- Develop regular daytime and bedtime schedules.
- Create a consistent and enjoyable bedtime routine.
- Establish a regular “sleep-friendly” environment.
- Encourage your baby to fall asleep independently.
Toddlers (1-2 years)
A toddler needs 11-14 hours of sleep each day. At around 18 months, they should switch to one nap per day that lasts for a couple of hours. Don’t let them nap too close to bedtime though, or it will interfere with sleep during the night. If your toddler is having behavioral problems and is tired during the day, it may be a sign of trouble sleeping. Some reasons they may be struggling to sleep include:
- Resistance to going to bed
- Waking during the night
- Separation anxiety
- Drive for independence
- Cognitive and social abilities
- Development of their imagination
Sleep Tips For Toddlers:
- Maintain a daily sleep schedule and a consistent bedtime routine.
- Make the bedroom environment the same every night and throughout the night.
- Set limits that are consistent, communicated and enforced. Encourage the use of a security object such as a blanket or stuffed animal.
Preschoolers (3-5 years)
Your preschoolers need to sleep for 11-13 hours at night. They probably don’t need to be taking daily naps after they hit five-years-old. It is common for them to have a hard time falling asleep, as well as waking up during the night. It is also common for children this age to experience nighttime fears and nightmares. Some even deal with sleepwalking and sleep terrors that can peak during their preschool years.
Sleep Tips for Preschoolers
- Maintain a regular and consistent sleep schedule.
- Have a relaxing bedtime routine that ends in the room where the child sleeps.
- The child should sleep in the same sleeping environment every night, in a room that is cool, quiet and dark – and without a TV.
School-aged Children (6-13 years)
Kids in this age group should be sleeping for 9-11 hours. Getting this much rest can be difficult for some kids because of homework, sports, and other activities. Then, there is TV, video games, phones, and even caffeine that impact the way a child sleeps. Bad sleep or not enough sleep can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems, and cognitive problems that impact their ability to learn in school.
Sleep Tips for School-aged Children
- Teach school-aged children about healthy sleep habits.
- Continue to emphasize the need for a regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
- Make a child’s bedroom conducive to sleep – dark, cool and quiet.
- Keep TV and computers out of the bedroom.
- Avoid caffeine.
Teenagers (14-18 years)
Teenagers should be sleeping 8-10 hours at night. It might be even more difficult for kids at this age because they typically have even more going on. Their sleep patterns shift to later times for sleeping and waking up during adolescence. It is normal for them to be awake until 11 p.m.
Sleep Tips for Teenagers
- Make sleep a priority
- No pills, vitamins or drinks can replace good sleep
- Establish a bed and wake-time and stick to it
- Don’t eat, drink, or exercise within a few hours of bedtime
Just 4 Kids Urgent Care
Raising kids isn’t easy. Especially if they aren’t getting the right amount of sleep. If you have a child with sleeping issues, come see us. We’ll take great care of your kids.