Between 2–3 years of age, sleep needs decrease to 10.5 hours of nighttime sleep, with an additional 1.5-hour afternoon nap. At 4 years of age, children need 11.5 hours of nighttime sleep and no longer require a daily nap, but 45 minutes of quiet time is recommended, along with the occasional nap. On average, 5-year-olds require 11 hours of nighttime sleep, with afternoon quiet time.
Developmental changes. Children in this age group are much more verbal and clever at avoiding sleep. Parents are able to include healthy boundaries and guidelines while still keeping bedtime as warm and cozy as possible. If sleep problems have been ongoing for a while, its never too late to improve them, just don’t expect to solve them overnight—be patient and consistent.
Big kid beds. With the verbal skills to understand big bed rules, most children are moving out of a crib by 3 years old. It’s a good idea to be consistent from the start with the rules of a big bed. Also, if you’re about to consider other routine changes (e.g., taking away pacifiers, learning how to go to sleep without being rocked to sleep) consider keeping your child in the crib a bit longer to keep a familiar environment while changing other aspects of their sleep.
Sample schedule. As children begin to reduce their naps, and eventually outgrow them, parents have to continually adjust sleep schedules. Be aware that preschoolers can be clever at disguising sleepiness, so watch closely for sleepy cues to avoid an overly tired child.
Generally, you want them to wake up between 6-7:30 a.m.
Around age 4, most children stop napping. When your preschooler hits this milestone, make sure they still have some quiet time in the late afternoon (looking at books in his or her room, for example), and move bedtime up by about an hour—i.e., if he or she had been getting to bed at 8:30 p.m., he or she should be in bed by 7:30 p.m.
By age 5, they can probably stay up a little later—until 8 p.m.—and should sleep until around 7 a.m. In other words, they should get an average 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. adjust your child’s exact bed-and wake-up times to coincide with your family schedule and school start-time.
This schedule applies to generally healthy children with no growth or developmental concerns. Sleep schedules are based on recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Remember, you should always consult with your child’s pediatrician.
- Kim West, LCSW-C. The Sleep Lady’s Good Night Sleep Tight.
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