Sleeping hours for kids: How much sleep does your child need?

If you want to establish set sleeping hours for kids, you need to be patient and more observant of their needs. Read on to know how.

Sleep is vital for all growing children. It not only aids in their rapid physical development but is also crucial for their mental well-being. But 'one pill for all’ is a not an applicable concept here. Sleeping hours for kids differ based on their age and how much sleep they need.

A newborn may sleep up to 14 hours a day, with intermittent naps. A two-year-old toddler on the other hand might be able to get enough rest with just eight hours of sleep. In fact, a matter of just 30 or 60 minutes can sometimes make a difference in how your child breezes through the day. 

Most parents are often unaware as to when their kids are not getting enough sleep. Unlike adults who get insufficient sleep, kids do not slow down, they wind up. They become restless and defer nap times. They even become hyper by the evening. All of this happens when they are overtired. 

The key is to know just how much sleep your child really needs at his age. 

Sleeping hours for kids: How much sleep your child needs 

Every child is different, and so their required sleep also varies. But by and large most kids follow a similar sleep window.

Let's take a look at the sleeping hours for kids based on their ages. This will help you know how much your child needs to grow into a happy and fuss-free kid. 

1. Age 1-4 weeks 

Newborns should ideally sleep about 15-18 hours per day. They do so in short nap periods of three to four hours. Those who are premature might sleep longer and those who are colicky may sleep less than 15 hours. 

Since most newborns do not have a biological clock or an understanding of day and night, they tend to sleep at any hour. They do not have any set pattern, and it is not good to force a pattern onto them at this stage. You need to go with the flow and allow them to sleep as they please.

Remember that sleeping hours for kids in this age group should not be less than 11.

sleeping hours for kids Newborns ideally sleep about 15-18 hours per day, and they do so in short nap periods of three to four hours. | Image source: Pinterest

2. Age 1-4 months 

By the age of six weeks, your newborn begins to develop an understanding of daytime and nighttime. You will also notice that his sleeping patterns become more structured as he grows. 

So from two to three hours of small naps, he will now snooze in four to six hours of interrupted sleep. You might also notice that his sleeping patterns are more inclined towards evening. This means he will start to prefer sleeping at night with you.

He may also take three to five naps during the day that may last between seven and nine hours. 

sleeping hours for kids So from two to three hours of small naps, your newborn will now snooze in four to six hours of interrupted sleep. | Image source: File photo

3. Age 4-12 months 

During this period, your baby will sleep for up to 15 hours per day. This will include nine to 10 hours of nighttime sleep and four to five hours of two or three daytime naps. By the time he reaches his 11-month mark, your child will probably sleep for about 11 hours in total. 

When babies drop their daytime naps from seven to two or three, they develop a pattern of sleeping through the night. So by this age (post six months), you can try to develop a proper napping schedule. 

You will also notice that their mid-morning naps will be around 9.30 am and last for about an hour. The early afternoon nap will start around noon and last around an hour or two. A late afternoon nap can be anywhere between three and five pm.

sleeping hours for kids When babies drop their day time naps from seven to two or three, they develop a pattern of sleeping through the night.| Image source: Pixnio

4. Age 1-3 years 

At this age, your toddler will only need 12 to 14 hours of sleep to get him through the day. As your child moves into his first year and turns 18 months, he might lose his morning and early evening naps. By this stage most kids prefer to nap just once a day. 

Ideally, toddlers this age need about 14 hours of sleep each day. But some may even get through the day with just 10 hours. However, most kids between the ages of 21 months and 36 months still require one nap per day. This nap may last two to three hours.

By this age, their nighttime routine is also pretty much set. So you will see them sleep from seven to nine pm until six to eight am.

sleeping hours for kids Ideally, toddlers this age need about 14 hours of sleep each day. But some may even get through the day with just 10 hours. | Image source: File photo

5. Age 3-6 years

Now that your little one is bursting with energy, you may notice his sleep window getting narrower. Between the ages of three and six, your kid needs 10-12 hours of sleep each day. 

At age three, most kids still want to nap. But by age five, they might let go of their daytime naps. So they might sleep in the same pattern as before. This means sleeping between seven and nine pm and waking up between six  and eight am. 

Fortunately, by this time sleeping hours for kids are pretty much set. They've gotten a hang of their sleep schedules, and they're able to stick to them — unless they are unwell. 

sleeping hours for kids At age three, most kids still want to nap. But by age five, they might let go of their daytime naps. | Image source: File photo

6. Age 7-12 years 

When your child turns 6 or 7, he will only need about 10-11 hours of sleep per day. Since they will be involved in their school activities and play, bedtime gets pushed back. So a 12-year-old for instance may now sleep at 9 pm.

There are usually no naps required, but that doesn't mean they cannot take one. Some kids this age still prefer to take short afternoon naps. 

Of course, not all kids are the same. Some children may still prefer to sleep between seven and 10 pm to get a total of nine to 12 hours of sleep. But on an average, the sleeping hours for kids in this window is nine hours. 

sleeping hours for kids When your child turns six or seven, he will only need about 10-11 hours of sleep per day. | Image source: File photo

7. Age 12 and above

When your preteen enters his teenager years, he may only need about eight to 10 hours of sleep. But you must ensure that he gets this much sleep because it is vital for his growth and development. 

Sleeping less than eight hours for a growing child can give rise to lifestyle conditions like sleep apnea. With growing involvement in school and an increase in their activities, most teenagers avoid naps during the day. In fact, only in rare cases will you find your teenagers sleeping for hours, unless they are unwell.

While these are common sleeping patterns, your responsibility is not just to know about this window, but also to help your kid develop one of their own. Setting sleeping hours for kids is crucial for their overall health and well-being. 

There are certain do's and don’ts that you must bear in mind when it comes to establishing nap schedules.

Sleeping hours for kids: Golden rules to start a napping schedule

1. Do learn to spot drowsiness

We all love those cute videos of yawning babies who fall down for a quick nap! But making a video of a falling baby is probably not the most responsible thing to do — especially if you are trying to develop a sleeping schedule.

If you spot your newborn yawning, rubbing his eyes or crying, know that it’s time for shut-eye

2. Don't wake a sleeping baby

As a rule, do not wake up your sleeping baby no matter where he might have dozed off. For instance, if you just strapped your baby in a car seat and he fell asleep, do not wake him up. Simply pick up the car seat, and let him be buckled in for a bit before you take him to his crib. 

The idea is to let the baby finish his nap for as long as possible. Waking up a sleeping baby can make him irritable and restless.

sleeping hours for kids As babies get older, they may sleep less and finally develop a habit of sleeping through the night. | Image source: Pinterest

3. Do let your baby finish his sleep 

It may come as a surprise to a new mother that her newborn sleeps for 16 hours a day. But you should wake him up only to feed, bathe or change. 

As babies get older, they may sleep less and finally develop a habit of sleeping through the night. But for newborns, you need to be extra cautious and more considerate in order to let them finish their naps. 

4. Do stretch out nap time

You can use this tip in case you are trying to set a napping schedule for your little one. If your baby has been taking short naps throughout the day, encourage him to sleep for a longer duration by keeping him up. Try to stretch nap-time to two to three hours.

Do this each day and your baby will develop a stretched sleeping time. This will also benefit you in the long run.

5. Do not rush in

When you notice your baby sneezing, hiccuping, whimpering or sighing in his sleep, do not worry.

You don’t have to rush him to the doctor every time he makes a noise. This may just mean that your baby is trying to settle down into his new sleeping schedule. So let him be. If, however, this turns into an illness, you need to rush him to a specialist.

But generally, making noises during sleep is quite normal. 

sleeping hours for kids Sleeping hours for kids: Mums should also be on the lookout for sleeping disorders from quite early on. | Image source: Pixabay

6. Do think about safety first

Always remember to put your baby down for sleep on his back to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It is important for him to sleep in a safe environment.

Remove extra blankets, stuffed animals and other soft things from the baby’s bassinet or crib.

Let him sleep in a bigger space, and also do not stuff him in layers of clothes and blankets when he goes off to sleep. 

7. Do avoid holding or rocking your baby to sleep

Many people will disagree and say that this is how their baby sleeps. But eventually this may be the only way your baby would fall asleep. However, it may not be true for all kids.

You should try to avoid rocking your baby to sleep during his initial days. If the baby falls asleep in your arms right after feeding, gently lay him down in a safe sleeping space.  

You may also want to keep your eyes peeled for the following sleep problems and disorders: 

  • Nightmares. These often occur when the child is changing his sleep routine or is under stress. They may see nightmares later in the night and even remember it the next day. So the key to help them is to encourage them to talk about it. You should reassure them that these nightmares are just their imagination. Avoid letting them sit in front of the television right before sleep. 
  • Sleepwalking. This can be common in kids aged between four and eight. These sleep disruptions often occur during the early part of the night. Here, the child is both awake and asleep at the same time and may not remember anything about it the next day. So you need to comfort your child and make sure that his room is safe and childproofed. Most importantly, you must encourage him to get more sleep. 
  • Sleep apnea. This is a serious medical issue where you can hear pauses in your child's breathing. Usually, children with this disorder snore loudly and may even have enlarged tonsils, allergies and weight issues. It's best to take your child to a specialist if you spot any of these symptoms. 
  • Narcolepsy. This disorder is usually seen when the child becomes a teenager, but it can occur as early as 10 years of age as well. In this issue they experience "sleep attacks" and may sleep for more hours than needed. Such a case also requires immediate attention from a specialist.  

While many kids do suffer from these issues, it doesn't mean every child does. As mentioned before, sleeping hours for kids differ from one to the next. What works for your baby might not work for somebody else's. Similarly, what your child goes through may not be the same as another child's experience. 

When it comes to setting sleeping hours for kids, remember that it's crucial to know exactly how much naptime your little one needs and what precautions you must take while putting him to bed.

It is all about being patient and observant because that is the only thing that will help your child develop a healthy sleep pattern.

Sources: WebMD, Sleepfoundation 

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