Sleep. We all need it, and many of us are accustomed to “getting by” with not quite enough. But what about your kids? Are they getting the sleep they need?
Getting good rest is critical to a child’s physical and behavioral development. Knowing how necessary it is, you might expect a hard and fast rule about how much your kids should be sleeping. Unfortunately, it’s not so clear–cut.
How much sleep does my child need?
Sleep needs vary from person to person based on a variety of factors, so there’s no single formula for calculating your child’s slumber time. The good news is, there are some science-based guidelines to help you figure out how much sleep your child may need.
Generally, daily sleep recommendations by age are:
|Infants (0-12 mos)||12-16 hours|
|Toddlers (1-2 years)||11-14 hours|
|Preschoolers (3-5 years)||10-13 hours|
|Gradeschoolers (6-12 years)||9-12 hours|
|Teens (13-18 years)||8-10 hours|
How do I know if my child is getting enough sleep?
Chances are, you know the signs when you’re not well-rested—irritability, difficulty focusing, drifting during meetings. The same goes for your kids.
Your child may not be getting sufficient ZZ’s if:
- They’re sleepy at the wrong times, like after waking up in the morning.
- They’re wide-awake at the wrong times, like right before bedtime.
- They fall asleep right away when given a chance.
- They have problems paying attention during the day.
- They’re easily frustrated or have trouble keeping impulses in check (think of the HALT method; “T” stands for tired).
What about naps?
When you consider the sleep your kids are getting, also factor in daytime downtime. Naps are important because as kids grow and develop, their bodies and minds need time to rest and recharge. Naptime can also keep kids from getting overtired, which often makes it harder for them to fall asleep at night.
“Some naps are better than no naps. We know how hard it can be to squeeze in a mid-day snooze, so consider incorporating naps in your child’s schedule every other day during the week, or even catching up with a couple naps on the weekend.”
By age, kids typically nap in the range of:
|Kids up to:||Average Daytime Sleep|
|6 months||2.5 hours|
|18 months||1.5 hours|
|2.5 years||1 hour|
|3.5 years||1 hour|
|5.5 years||1 hour|
How do we create healthy sleep habits?
Addressing your kids’ sleep habits doesn’t have to be difficult. There are a lot of ways to spot sleep problems and make tweaks to get your kids back on track.
- Create a regular routine. Having the same wake-up, meal, nap, play, and bed times helps kids feel secure and comfortable. A consistent before-bed routine also helps, such as brushing, storytime, and tuck-in.
- Learn to recognize sleep problems. Some common signs your child is getting poor sleep include difficulty falling asleep, waking up during the night, and stalling at bedtime.
- Talk to your teacher or childcare provider. Sleep problems are apparent during the day, too. When kids aren’t getting good sleep, they may have trouble focusing in school. Teachers can help you flag learning or behavioral problems stemming from poor sleep.
- Keep your kids active during the day. Kids who have plenty of interesting and engaging activities during the day—like physical activity and getting fresh air—are likely to get better sleep at night.
Want more info?
- Healthychildren.org lays out sleep requirements for kids, along with suggestions for building healthy sleep habits.
- Parenting Science offers an overview of a comprehensive study on sleep requirements in children.
- Printable Parents has plenty of tips for ending the bedtime battles and creating a routine your kids will stick with.