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How Much Sleep Does my Child Need?

Children need sleep. As any parent will tell you, dealing with a grumpy, sleep-deprived infant is no fun. The amount of sleep a child requires changes as they grow older, as demonstrated by these guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation.

Age GroupRecommended hours of sleep per 24 hoursAge-specific observations
Newborn0 - 3 months14 - 17 hoursImmature circadian rhythm. Continual cycles of eating, sleeping and waking.
Infant4 - 12 months12 - 15 hoursBy their first birthday, many children still do not sleep for a continual 8 hour stretch. Therefore, night time sleep is still disrupted. However, they are starting to develop a more regular sleeping pattern and are usually more active during the day.
Toddler1 - 2 years11 - 14 hoursUsually sleep is broken into one long stretch at night and 1 - 2 naps during the day. Daytime naps can last up to 3 hours.
Preschooler3 - 5 years10 - 13 hoursNaps are less common now, but it is not unusual for children of this age to fall asleep in the car.
School aged child6 - 12 years9 - 11 hoursFamily time and extra curricular activities can make it difficult for children of school age to get sufficient sleep.
Teenager13 - 18 years8 - 10 hoursTeenagers typically function best if they stay up late and sleep in (their circadian rhythm operates optimally to a later schedule). Sleep deprivation is fairly common, as this pattern of sleeping rarely suits everyday life, such as going to school.

Despite these guidelines, it is important to remember that every child is different, so there can be some variation in the number of hours they sleep. 

Why is sleep so important?

Sleep is the brain’s primary activity in early development. It promotes mental and physical growth. Childhood is a time of very rapid growth and development and without sufficient sleep, children can struggle with maintaining attention and concentration throughout the day. 

Sleep and body weight are intricately linked across various age groups; shorter sleep duration is associated with a greater risk of obesity and a higher BMI. Furthermore, there is even the suggestion that children who do not get enough sleep, might be more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, which has significant health implications later in life.

What to do if you are worried

Establishing a consistent bedtime routine is key. It can be helpful to work backwards to calculate what an age appropriate bedtime is, particularly if your child needs to wake up for a certain time each day. The Sleep Advisor website provides a very useful chart you can use to do exactly this. It can be accessed here

Sleeping too little or too much can be a sign of an underlying medical problem. If your baby or child is sleeping more than the recommended amount, but is still always tired, they may be suffering from a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, which causes irregular breathing and can prevent them from entering into deep sleep cycles. It is also possible for young children to experience insomnia, which is a condition probably more usually associated with adults. Minimising screen time before bed and adopting a calming routine can help, as can supplements, but you should always consult a doctor first.

For more information on the importance of childhood sleep routines visit the Sleep Advisor website.

Sources:

  • “How Many Hours of Sleep Do Kids Need?” Sleep Advisor, 21 Jan. 2021, www.sleepadvisor.org/how-much-sleep-do-kids-need/.
  • Ophoff, D., et al. “Sleep Disorders during Childhood: a Practical Review.” European Journal of Pediatrics, vol. 177, no. 5, May 2018, pp. 641–648., doi:10.1007/s00431-018-3116-z.
  • Rudnicka, Alicja R., et al. “Sleep Duration and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes.” Pediatrics, vol. 140, no. 3, Sept. 2017, doi:10.1542/peds.2017-0338.
  • Xiu, Lijuan, et al. “Sleep and Adiposity in Children From 2 to 6 Years of Age.” Pediatrics, vol. 145, no. 3, Mar. 2020, doi:10.1542/peds.2019-1420. 

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