Sleep Management in Children Explained

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Read what Dr Theodric Lee, Paediatrician at Thomson Paediatric Centre, has to say about how much sleep your child needs, and why and how to recognise sleep disorders.

What is your child’s ideal bed time? How many hours should your child sleep in a day? How many naps should your child take? Do you think your child has a sleep disorder?

Almost every parent has concerns about their child and his or her sleep patterns. In this article, Dr Theodric Lee, Paediatrician at Thomson Paediatric Centre, provides detailed insights on sleep management for your children.

How much sleep does a child need on average

The recommended amount of sleep per day for your child depends largely on his age.  See the following as a guideline:

  1. Newborns (below 2 months): 14 – 16 hours (including naps)
  2. Infants (2 – 12 months): 12 – 14 hours (including naps)
  3. Toddlers (1 – 3 years): 11 – 13 hours (including naps)
  4. Preschoolers (3 – 6 years): 10 – 12 hours (including naps)
  5. School age (6 – 12 years): 9 – 11 hours
  6. Teenagers (12 – 18 years): 8 – 10 hours
  7. Adults (>18 years): 7 – 9 hours
tips to get babies to sleep

Infants, preschoolers, teenagers and adults — all need different amounts of sleep.

There is great variation of sleep requirement between individuals. The best test of your child’s sleep requirement is to observe if he is refreshed in the daytime, generally well-behaved, as well as learning well and paying attention in school.

A word of caution – many parents report that their child is “over-active” or “high”, especially in the evenings and that they have difficulty sleeping at bedtime; this is often a sign of “over-tiredness” instead.

It is also important to note that sleep requirement guidelines are mostly derived from research in predominantly Caucasian populations, and that research shows that children in predominantly Asian populations sleep less on average than children in countries of predominantly Caucasian populations1. It is currently unclear whether this is due to a biological differences in sleep requirement between ethnic groups, or due to differences in cultural norms and that children in Asian populations are simply more sleep deprived.

There are currently no sleep requirement guidelines specifically for Asian children; nevertheless it is my opinion that it should not be significantly reduced when compared with the above guidelines.

toddler development

Adequate amount of sleep is important for a child’s physical and cognitive development.

Importance of adequate sleep

Sleep is important for both physical health as well as cognitive health, both of which are essential for a developing child. Most beneficial effects to physical health take place in deep (stage N3) sleep, for example secretion of growth hormone.

Research has shown the ill effects of sleep deprivation on physical health, e.g. increasing the risk of obesity2. Sleep is also critical for learning and for development of good behaviour, with most beneficial effects taking place in dream (rapid eye movement) sleep, for example memory consolidation.

Sleep deprivation can have ill effects on learning, e.g. children and teenagers who slept for shorter durations were more likely to have poorer school performance3. It has also been shown that children with poorer sleep habits are more likely to have long-term behaviour issues e.g. attention deficit, anxiety, social problems4.

Click on the next page to learn more about signs of a sleep disorder in your child and how to manage it.

Baby sleep Toddler Sleeps & Naps