How Much Sleep Does My Child Need?

As new parents, we have so much to start thinking about and of course worrying about. Is my baby growing well? Is he/she eating enough? and the ever so popular.. Is my child getting enough sleep?

Babies and children require sleep. Lots of it. It is not a luxury, it is a biological need. When a child is well rested and getting the sleep they need, it allows them to be at their optimum. The best little people they can be. Sleep is to the brain as food is to the body. It enables memory consolidation, enhances organizational skills, planning, multi-tasking and executive functioning among many other amazing things. When a child is not getting sufficient rest, they are more irritable, frustrated and tend to get easily angered or upset.

So how much of the “good stuff” do they need? The National Sleep Foundation has recently revised their guidelines. It is important to note the word “guideline.” You will notice quite a range in each age group as this reflects the fact that children can have varying sleep needs.

  • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)

You may be asking yourself “How do I know how much MY child needs? Where do they fall within this range?” So here are some key factors I want you to ask yourself to determine if your child is well rested. (It is important to note that newborn sleep is erratic and naps and night sleep are not yet developed, so it’s normal for things to not be on a set pattern at the beginning.)

  • Does your child fall asleep relatively easily within 10-15 minutes?
  • If your child is of an age where naps are required, do they take consolidated naps and wake in a good mood?
  • Does your child sleep consolidated nights without frequent night wakings and wake at an age appropriate hour in the am?
  • *Important to note that a night can still be considered restful if your baby is of the age that a feeding is still required (typically 0-6 months in a healthy thriving child). In this case you want to look at whether your baby drinks well at that feeding time and then falls right back to sleep without any other long wakenings.
  • Is your child generally in a good mood with appropriate behavior?

If you can answer yes to these questions above, chances are that your child is getting the right amount of sleep, and don’t worry so much about “guidelines”. The only “guideline” you need to pay attention to is the one that you are kissing goodnight.

Tracy Braunstein

Tracy, a certified pediatric sleep consultant, truly believes that a healthy foundation for sleep is crucial for a well rested family. She has certified with the Family Sleep Institute and is a member of The International Association of Child Sleep Consultants (IACSC).

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