In general, children need different amounts of sleep, depending on their age. A child’s activity level, health needs, and individual personality can also influence a sleep schedule. It’s very important for children to get enough sleep – a consistent bedtime routine can help kids develop healthy sleep patterns that can boost their health, mood, and focus.
How Much Sleep Do Children Need?
- Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours per day
- Infants (4-12 months): 12-16 hours per day
- Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours per day
- Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours per day
- School-agers (6-12 years): 9-12 hours per day
- Teenagers (13-18 years): 8-10 hours per day
How much sleep do kids need? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports the guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) that group babies, toddlers, and children into specific age groups and sleep hours.
Still, it can be challenging for experts to pinpoint sleep recommendations that work for each age group since each child is different. A sleep schedule that works for some young children may not work for others. These general guidelines for sleep can help you decide on a healthy sleep schedule for your child.
How Much Sleep Do My Kids Need?
A regular sleep routine is essential for a child’s health and sleep hygiene. The following sleep guidelines are recommended by experts like the AAP, the National Sleep Foundation, and the AASM, for babies and kids, from newborns to 18-year-olds.
1. Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours per day
Newborns through 3 months of age generally have no problem getting enough sleep every day. In fact, they’ll sleep most of the day – up to 17 hours between naps and night sleeping. However, it can seem like a hungry newborn doesn’t sleep enough because of how frequently they wake to eat.
When babies first come home from the hospital, it’s normal for them to sleep for only one to two hours at a time before waking for another meal. After a baby eats, they’ll likely drift back off for another nap. These frequent waking and sleeping patterns are normal for newborns.
As they get closer to 3 months of age, babies tend to extend their naps and nighttime sleeping. A nap can go over two hours while nighttime sleeping may start edging into the 4-6 hour range.
If you notice that your baby sleeps through mealtimes frequently, you may need to start waking them to feed. Your pediatrician can determine if your baby’s weight is on track and whether you should wake them for more frequent feedings.
2. Infants (4-12 months): 12-16 hours per day
Once babies reach 4 months of age, they start sleeping for longer periods through the night. Naps may not be as frequent during the day. Still, they should get between 12-16 hours of sleep every 24 hours. This usually adds up to eight hours of sleep at night and a few naps during the day.
Sleep patterns in this age range can vary significantly between infants. Some infants start sleeping through the night at four months, while others don’t do so until closer to the 1-year mark. In most cases, either end of the spectrum is normal. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most babies don’t gain regular sleep patterns until 6 months old.
If you notice your baby frequently waking during the night and showing signs of irritability and tiredness throughout the day, consult your pediatrician or an infant sleep specialist for advice.
3. Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours per day
Toddlers become more focused on nighttime sleep, taking shortened, predictable naps during the day. A one-year-old toddler will probably be sleeping through the night for 6-8 hours, or slightly longer, with one or two naps during the day.
Closer to the 2-year mark, toddlers tend to decrease their naps to just one per day and increase the time that they sleep during the night. For example, you might find your toddler sleeping for 10 to 12 hours each night with a two-hour nap in the late morning or early afternoon.
4. Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours per day
How much sleep do kids need at the preschool age? Experts like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Sleep Foundation agree that 10 to 13 hours is best.
Some preschoolers still have one nap each day. However, by their 5th birthday, many preschoolers begin skipping a nap, which can be a helpful perk as they get ready to head to kindergarten.
Your child may still need a nap, however, and this is normal. You can usually determine if a nap is needed by observing your child’s behavior. Preschoolers can become defiant or have trouble focusing on tasks when they feel overtired. If your child seems fussy or irritable by late morning or afternoon, try giving them a nap or an hour of quiet time to relax.
5. School-agers (6-12 years): 9-12 hours per day
The AAP and AASM 9-12 hours of sleep each day for children in elementary school. However, a child at 6 or 7-years-old may have different sleep needs than those of an 11 or 12-year-old.
Because school-age kids don’t tend to take naps, you might find that your 10-year-old is more than ready to fall asleep at bedtime. Your family’s active outside time, screen time, and other routines can also play a role in healthy sleep patterns. Getting plenty of outdoor playtime, limiting electronics before bed, and sticking to a consistent bedtime routine can help your child fall asleep.
6. Teenagers (13-18 years): 8-10 hours per day
The AAP recommends teenagers get 8-10 hours of sleep each night. Although we tend to think that teenagers can get away with less sleep than younger kids, the fact is that they need restful deep sleep and REM sleep just as much as other children. The AAP is an advocate for later school start times to ensure that teenagers get enough optimal sleep to help their bodies and brains function optimally for learning. That equates to a rough schedule of falling asleep by 9-10 p.m., so they can wake for school by 6 a.m.
Teens can often be the most challenging group to convince of the importance of sleep, even though their health and well-being depend on it. As a parent or caregiver, you can help your teen sleep better by creating a relaxing bedroom environment and teaching good sleep habits.
University of Michigan Health suggests keeping screen devices out of kids’ bedrooms – including TVs and video game systems – and limiting your teen’s caffeine intake. You can also adjust the thermostat at night to allow for the best temperature for sleep, creating a cool, dark environment that helps your teen enter dreamland.
What Happens If a Child Doesn’t Get Enough Sleep?
If a child has poor sleep habits or develops a sleep disorder, the consequences can be severe. Sleep deprivation in kids can lead to behavioral, cognitive, and health issues.
Children who don’t get optimal sleep each night may exhibit disruptive behavior due to impaired executive and social-emotional functioning. A lack of sleep can lead to a decreased ability to see things positively, which could affect a child’s overall perception of life, people, and their surroundings. This negativity can lead to more impulsive decisions, overactivity, and anxiety.
Children who don’t sleep for the recommended hours a day might also have a dip in cognitive function that affects their ability to learn. One study suggests that there’s a possible correlation between sleep restriction or deprivation and an interruption in the cognitive development of a child’s brain.
The National Sleep Foundation asserts that a lack of sleep affects cognition in multiple ways, such as by decreasing kids’ attention spans, lowering creative and problem-solving skills, and impairing memory. Older teenagers could become less able to carry out tasks like driving or working safely without adequate sleep.
A child’s health is at risk without optimal sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sleep deprivation can put children and teenagers at a higher risk for long-term health problems, including type 2 diabetes and obesity. Mental health can also be a concern. Because a child’s emotional processing ability is still developing, long-term sleep deprivation can trigger depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems.
What Can Affect a Child’s Sleep Patterns?
Children can experience sleep problems in different ways, depending on their lifestyle, sleep habits, age, and other factors. There are several ways that a good night’s rest could be interrupted, including anxiety, night terrors, an irregular schedule of daytime naps, and sleep disorders.
If you notice that your child seems sleep deprived even if they’re going to bed and waking on schedule, be sure to talk to your doctor. It’s possible that a sleep disorder, like sleep apnea or delayed sleep phase syndrome, is causing a problem with their sleep schedule. Interruptions to a child’s life, such as divorce or a traumatic event, can also lead to less sleep at night.
Sometimes, daytime naps can get in the way of regular nightly sleep cycles. Some research has shown that late-afternoon naps and longer naps can affect a toddler’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. However, the same researchers found that when toddlers napped earlier in the afternoon and for less time, their nighttime sleep duration increased.
Your child’s bedroom may also affect the natural circadian rhythm that tells their body when they should go to sleep and when to wake. A room that’s too dark may not let in enough light to trigger a child’s internal clock. Phones, tablets, and TVs in the room can also lead to an interrupted sleep schedule.
How Much Sleep Do My Kids Need?
Every child is different, which means that these guidelines may not fit your child perfectly. Still, they’re helpful to follow to make sure that your child gets enough sleep. When children feel refreshed after a good night’s sleep, they are more apt to focus in school, exhibit better behaviors, and have more energy to play, exercise, and complete daily tasks.
In some cases, sleep disorders and disruptions can interfere with a child’s ability to fall asleep or stay asleep. Most sleep disorders can affect children of almost any age. If you notice that your child is frequently tired or irritable even after going to bed at a reasonable time, consult with your pediatrician.
With a regular bedtime routine and an optimal sleeping environment, your child can develop healthy sleep habits and get the right amount of rest each night.