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How Much Sleep Do Kids Need? The Parents Guide to Healthy Sleep

by SleePare

By Emily Stringer | 3 Minute Read

Depending on age, children will need different amounts of sleep. There are averages for Depending on age, children will need different amounts of sleep. 

 Parents know how important sleep is for growing children and can tell when their children are tired. Often, children will act out and experience increased energy levels and hyperactivity when they are overtired. This causes some inexperienced parents to think their child could have ADHD. 

While there are no set rules for sleep, there are recommended guidelines for the amount of sleep by age. As an adult, you may have noticed you can’t sleep in as long as you could as a teenager. Sleep needs change over time, as do the needs of individual children. 

Read on to find out how much sleep kids need by age and for some helpful sleep tips. 

How Much Sleep Do Kids Need: By Age

Recommended sleep times

As children grow and change, so do their sleep needs. School times, home life, and health issues can impact the quality and amount of your child’s sleep. Every child is different when it comes to the amount of sleep they need. 

Below are the recommendations for the amount of sleep children need by age group.

Newborns

Newborns need more sleep than other age groups with a total of up to 16-17 hours a day. 

On average, newborns will sleep 8 to 9 hours at night and 8 hours during the day. While newborns sleep most of the time, they sleep in short bursts of 1-2 hours. When newborns are not sleeping, they are eating. Newborn babies spend less time in REM sleep, or rapid eye movement than older children-meaning they sleep more but not as deeply. 

Infants

The infant stage begins when a child reaches 4 months of age and lasts until they reach their first birthday. At this age, children can usually sleep for 5 hours at a time-finally giving parents a break! Around the time your child reaches one-year-old, nightly sleep increases to 10 whole hours and will nap during the day for about 14-15 hours a day

Toddlers

When your child starts to toddle, they will soon spend less time asleep and more time exploring. Toddlers will sleep for about 12 to 14 hours daily from ages 1-3. Parents of toddlers know that the terrible twos often mean drastic behavioral changes, including sleep regression and acting out at bedtime/naptime.

Preschoolers

Once your child reaches 3, the amount of time spent sleeping will decrease to 11-13 hours per night. At this age, children tend to experience more vivid dreams, nightmares, and night terrors.

Night terrors can cause sleep disruption and intense fear. These episodes can interfere with your child’s health due to lack of sleep. 

school aged or teenager sleeping Text: Night terrors can cause sleep disruption and intense fear.

School-Aged Children

Once your child reaches school-age, they need to sleep 9-11 hours per night. This will decrease as they get older and possibly increase again as they enter the more active teenage years. 

Still, at this age, sleep is just as important as the earlier stages of your child’s life. During this time, your children will develop a social life and hobbies that can distract them from healthy sleep. Keep your child on a routine and consistent bedtime to keep them healthy and function at their best. The ill effects of poor sleep start to impact your child at this age.

A Finnish study found that children aged 5-6 years who slept less than 9 hours daily were 3-5 times more likely to develop attention problems like ADHD and psychiatric symptoms. The study also found that children aged 5-6 who slept less than 10 hours a night were twice as likely to become overweight or obese later in life.

Teenagers

Like newborns, teenagers are known for their marathon sleep sessions. Drastic growth spurts and hormonal changes can disrupt sleep patterns. Don’t be alarmed if your teenager sleeps until 3:00 pm on a Saturday. It is no surprise that, according to the CDC, 7 in 10 high schoolers do not get the recommended 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night. 

Poor sleep in teenagers is attributed to mood disorders, decreased cognitive function, and an increased rate of engaging in risky behavior. 

Young Adults 

From ages 18 to 25, young adults will notice their need for sleep decreases to about 7 to 9 hours. As we age, we tend to sleep less and many young adults report sleeping less. During this time, our biorhythms change and you’ll either morph into an early bird or a night owl depending on your work schedule and lifestyle. 

How Do I Know If My Child Is Sleeping Normally?

kid sleeping on desk Text: Sleep requirements vary from child to child, but one thing is the same–children of all ages need quality sleep.

It is possible that you won’t know if your child is sleeping normally. Sleep requirements vary from child to child, but one thing is the same–children of all ages need quality sleep. Even with years of research and studies that have concluded recommended amounts of sleep by age group, only parents, and later the child themselves can determine how much sleep they need. 

Certain sleep disorders, medical conditions, and medication can impact your child’s sleep. Even though there is no set way of measuring if your child is sleeping normally, there are a few indicators your child is having trouble sleeping. 

According to studies, there are several signs your child is not sleeping normally. 

Behavioral problems 

Children of all ages often act out when they are tired. Behaviors include hyperactivity, defiance, cognitive issues, trouble concentrating,  and emotional instability. 

Trouble waking up 

Consistent sleep and wake cycles allow for children to experience deep REM sleep-the restorative stage of sleep. If your child has trouble waking up, it is best to visit their pediatrician to test for sleep disorders like sleep apnea.  

Inadvertent napping

Falling asleep during the day is a major indicator of sleep deprivation. Children might fall asleep at school, miss out on important learning, and cause disruptions in the classroom. 

Excessive sleeping on weekends 

Sleeping in on the weekends by an hour or so is normal, but sleeping in for several hours can signal a problem. Both children and adults who sleep significantly longer on the weekends are not getting their recommended amount of sleep on weekdays. Sleep debt, or making up sleep on weekends and holidays, is detrimental to overall health. 

Attempting to make up sleep is proven to cause increased food intake, reduced energy, weight gain, and problems with insulin. Medical professionals advise sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends. Short 15 to 20-minute naps can help with weekend sleepiness. Short naps will not interfere with nighttime sleep. 

How Long Should Their Naps Be?

parent putting kid down for nap. Text: When the children in the study reached 3.5 years of age, only 23% continued daytime naps

Naps are an important part of a child’s health and normal functioning. One study found that all children under 18 months old napped during the day. When the children in the study reached 3.5 years of age, only 23% continued daytime naps. Another study found children over the age of 2 did not experience cognitive benefits from naps. 

Naps are often cultural in nature and are more common in certain parts of the world, such as the siesta culture in Spain. Many cultures discourage daytime sleeping after a certain age. There are benefits of power naps for adults and teens including increased alertness, enhanced performance at work, and improved cognitive performance. 

Like adults, children benefit from shorter naps so as to not interfere with their nighttime sleep. The chart below shows nap time recommendations for children ages 6 months to 6.75 years.

Age 

Recommended Nap Time

Average Time

6 months 

1.3-3.5 hours

2.4 hours

18 months

1-2 hours

1.5 hours

30 months

0.7 to 1.7 hours

1.2 hours 

3.5 years 

0.5 to 1.7 hours

1.1 hours

5.75 years

0.3 to 1.7 hours

1 hour

6.75 years

0.3 hours to 2.1 hours

1.2 hours

 

Refining Your Families Individual Sleep Needs

family getting ready for bed.  Text: Everyone, even children, have different sleep patterns, needs, and sleep requirements.

Making sleep a priority is the best way to ensure your child gets quality sleep. For the first two years of a child’s life, they will spend more time asleep than awake. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), 25% to 40% of children experience sleep issues.
Everyone, even children, have different sleep patterns, needs, and sleep requirements. Being a role model for your child and the rest of your family by prioritizing sleep, maintaining good sleep habits, and letting your child know the importance of sleep. 

One of the best ways to determine your family’s sleep requirements is with a sleep diary. Make a note of your child’s bedtime, how long it takes them to fall asleep if they wake up at night and any other behaviors. You can also use a variety of sleep apps you can use to monitor your and your child’s sleep quality. 

What Happens If My Child Doesn’t Get Enough Sleep

cranky kid Text: Persistent sleep deprivation in children is proven to cause behavioral, emotional, and cognitive problems in the future.

The APP reports that pediatricians historically receive little training in childhood sleep disorders. As a result, these issues can be overlooked. Parents will become well versed in their child’s behavior and will learn to recognize when their child is sleep deprived. 

Children, like adults, experience behavioral changes related to sleep deprivation. Babies and younger toddlers cannot articulate to let us know they are tired and lacking sleep.

Your child is sleep-deprived, they might experience the following symptoms and behaviors: 

  • Defiance
  • ADHD
  • Intense emotions
  • Hyperactivity
  • Poor cognitive functioning

Persistent sleep deprivation in children is proven to cause behavioral, emotional, and cognitive problems in the future. A Canadian study tracked children from ages 2.5 to 6 and found children who slept less overall before age 3 years, 4 months experienced heightened levels of hyperactivity at age 6.

Tips for Healthy Sleep Habits

child sleeping Text: Our bedtime routines might vary over time depending on our lifestyle and sleep needs/habits.

Healthy sleep habits are vital for any group. Our bedtime routines might vary over time depending on our lifestyle and sleep needs/habits. Sometimes, your child might fight you when it comes to winding down for bedtime-usually this means they are overtired and need sleep. 

Here are some tips to help your child wind down and get to sleep. 

Set a bedtime and wake uptime

Keeping your child on a consistent sleep schedule will condition your child to sleep and wake up at a certain time. Experts recommend starting your child with a set wake up and bedtime prior to preschool or kindergarten to prevent stress and sleep problems in the future. 

Limit excessive day time and weekend sleep

Sleeping in on the weekends might feel great, but those few extra hours can backfire. Especially common in teens, getting too little sleep in on the weekdays builds up a sleep deficit that can’t be paid back. 

Extra sleep on weekends disturbes our internal clock. While this applies to all ages, (even adults), teens tend to suffer the most. Sleeping until noon on the weekends creates a jet lag-like effect on Monday morning when that 6:00 am alarm goes off to make it to school on time. 

Waking your teen up early on a Saturday morning won’t be a popular decision, but rather a smart one.

Limit blue light 

The blue light emitted by electronics has been proven time and time again to be detrimental to sleep quality. The human body processes blue light as sunlight, which suppresses melatonin. If you’ve noticed you can’t fall asleep after scrolling through your newsfeed before bed-this is why–– same applies for children and teens.

 A 2018 study found that children aged 2.2 to 8.9 years old experienced significant melatonin suppression from blue light than adults. The study concluded children experience less exposure to blue light on average compared to adults, but the impact on sleep and melatonin suppression is even stronger. 

While it might be difficult to pull your child away from their tablet before bedtime, having them wake up refreshed will be worth the fight. 

kid waking up Text: Children will often wake up or get out of bed prior to sleep for a variety of reasons.

Make sure your child stays in bed

Children can be unpredictable, especially when it comes to bedtime. Many parents struggle to get their children to stay in their bed. Children will often wake up or get out of bed prior to sleep for a variety of reasons. If your child repeatedly wakes up and gets out of bed, experts advise to avoid giving your child attention for this behavior. 

If this behavior persists, make sure to take care of any of your child’s needs before bed. 

Stay cool

Research shows that sleeping in a cool room-at least 65 degrees for adults. For children, that temperature ranges from 65 to 70 degrees. Melatonin levels help regulate body temperature, meaning your temperature drops when it is time to go to sleep. 

When putting your child to bed, try not to bundle them up too much or crank the heat-even in the colder months.

Sleep is vital for healthy living and functioning at every stage of life. Both children and adults benefit from similar bedtime rituals for healthy sleep. The old adage “sleep like a baby” is not always the case as children can suffer from sleep disorders and disturbances just like adults. 

For even more sleep resources for both children and adults as well as mattress recommendations, check out our blog. Along with mattresses for adults and sleep accessories, SleePare carries mattresses for kids. Click here to view our mattresses for kids buying guide.

 
Emily Stringer

Emily Stringer


Emily Stringer is a Content Writer at SleePare. Emily has over five years of experience writing and conducting research for different industries. When she’s not writing, you can find Emily with her dogs in Lexington, Kentucky.