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How Much Sleep Does My Child Need?

Parenting Sleep

It's a frequently asked question by parents: How much sleep does my child really need? Sleep is especially important for children as it directly impacts mental and physical development.

The answer of course, will depend on your child's age and stage of development, so whether you are trying to figure out your newborn's erratic sleep stages, or you need some ammunition for a bedtime-discussion with your pre-teen, here are some guidelines you can follow:

0-3 months

Your newborn baby has not yet settled into their circadian rhythm (sleep-wake rhythm) and will therefor not have a regular sleep schedule just yet. But your baby needs about 10-18 hours of sleep per day.

So don't worry so much if your child sleeps in irregular spurts right now. Soon enough they will settle into a more predictable pattern. Put them to bed while they're sleepy, but not yet sleeping. This will help them learn how to fall asleep on their own.

As time passes, encourage longer nighttime sleep-sessions by exposing them to light, noise and activity during the day, and quiet, dimmer and calmer activity in the evening.

4-11 months

Usually you can phase out the nighttime feedings by about 6-9 months of age. At this stage your baby will usually sleep between 9-12 hours per night, and usually spend up to another 4 hours napping during the day (naps usually get shorter and fewer closer to the first birthday).

If you've been putting them to sleep while still awake, they will have an easier time falling back asleep by themselves if they happen to wake in the middle of the night.

1-2 years

Toddlers need about 11-14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. Many will still get part of this necessary sleep time through naps, but these will continue to decrease around 18-24 months of age.

Try to keep naps earlier in the day so they don't interfere as much with bedtime. Keep consistent bedtimes and bedtime routines to encourage a more regular sleep schedule.

3-5 years

Your preschooler needs about 11-13 hours of sleep, and by now many will have phased out their naps, but if your child still naps during the day, you can expect a shorter sleep during the night.

Thanks to a growing imagination, nightmares and nighttime fears are very common at this age and can interfere with their sleep. Keep a consistent and calming bedtime routine prior to bed to instill a feeling of safety and security.

6-13 years

Your school aged child needs about 9-11 hours of sleep every night. The demands on this age group from school, extra curricular activities and an increased interest in TV, computers and the Internet will make it a challenge to get the proper amount of sleep.

Studies shows that watching TV or spending time on electronics too close to bedtime cause difficulty falling asleep and an increased anxiety about sleeping. Lack of sleep at this age can cause mood-swings, behavioral and cognitive problems.

To help ensure your child gets plenty of sleep, make their bedroom conducive to sleeping: keep it cool, dark and quiet. Keep TV's and computer's out of their bedroom and avoid caffeinated food products.

If you need help managing your child's screen time before bed, read this.

13-18 years

Your adolescent child needs about 9-9.5 hours of sleep, but studies show that the average sleep time for teenagers is only 7 hours.

After puberty, your teenager goes through an internal shift, which results in an extra 2 hours of awake time in the evening. To compensate, they should be sleeping an extra 2 hours the next morning, but this rarely happens as school start times don't change.

Extra curricular activities and socializing also tend to occupy a teenager's evenings, resulting in a later bedtime. Sleep deprivation at this age will result in a poor mood, problems with memory and attention (meaning grades start slipping) and shorter reaction times (important if your teen is driving).

To help your child get enough sleep, encourage them to keep a regular sleep schedule, going to sleep and waking up around the same time every day. Sleeping in on the weekends is very tempting, but can make it very hard to go to sleep on time come Sunday night, resulting in a sleep-lag at the start of the week.

A short afternoon nap might be more helpful. Also try to reduce screen time just prior to bed, encourage reading or journaling instead, and avoid caffeinated food and drinks in the evening.

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