One of the most common questions parents have when they come to their well visits is if their child is getting enough sleep. It can be a challenge when a child goes through a transition such as dropping a nap or having a sleep regression. Sometimes just when you think you have their sleep schedule pinned down, they go and change it up on you again! Read more to find our just how many hours of sleep kids need divided by age or scroll to the bottom to see a chart with a summary.
Benefits of sleep
Doing what we can to optimize their sleep hours and sleep quality has huge benefits including improved:
- emotional regulation
- quality of life
- mental and physical health
While it is true that the amount of sleep children need will decrease as they get older, I see far too many kids in my practice who don’t get enough. This is not just isolated to the teenagers as you might expect.
It is important to have a routine bedtime for kids and to teach them to prioritize their sleep. If you find that your child it not getting enough sleep, it is easier to adjust their bedtime earlier than to expect them to wake up later, particularly for children who wake up early on their own. Parents often try to push their child’s bedtime later in the hopes of getting the child to wake up later. Unfortunately this often backfires when the child maintains the same wake time then ends up getting less total hours of sleep and is cranky the next day.
What to Do if Your Child Sleeps Early
Another challenge I often see is that a child’s body clock and sleep schedule don’t match their parent’s work and dinner schedule. I had this experience myself when my children were babies. They wanted to sleep by 7 but I didn’t get home from work until 7 and wanted to spend time with them before going to bed. However, when I tried to push their bedtime to 8, they woke up more frequently at night and we were all cranky the next day.
Here are a few ideas to troubleshoot this situation often faced by working parents:
- Make morning the time you spend together as a family
- Eat breakfast together
- Ask your child’s caregiver to do the dinner and bath before you pick up your child so when you get home you can have time before bed to connect with reading a story or quiet play instead of frantically trying to meet the bedtime deadline.
- Get outfits for the whole week ready to go during the weekend
- Meal prep on the weekends so if you do have time to eat dinner together, it can happen as soon as you get home.
Setting a Bedtime
I suggest setting a bedtime based on when your child starts acting sleepy. Some signs children may exhibit are becoming more quiet, developing drooping eyelids, or starting to get fussy. Try to get your child to bed before their second wind. You know what I’m talking about – when a child suddenly gets really awake, hyper and happy. If you wait until after the second wind, you will see an overtired, fussy child who is really hard to get into bed.
How Much Sleep Do Kids Need By Age
Below is the recommended amount of sleep divided by age as determined by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. This recommendation is also endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. You may note that their recommendations do not include amounts for young infants. The reason for this is that young infants have a wide range of normal sleep hours.
Remember these are just guidelines and every child is different. If you have specific concerns about your child’s sleep patterns, please reach out to your child’s doctor.
Infants ages 4 months to 12 months should sleep 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
Children ages 1 to 2 years should sleep 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
Children ages 3 to 5 years should sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)
Children ages 6 to 12 years should sleep 9 to 12 hours per 24 hours
Teenagers ages 13 to 18 years should sleep 8 to 10 hours per 24 hours
Source: Recommended Amount of Sleep for Pediatric Populations:
A Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Vol. 12, No. 6 2016
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