How Much Sleep Do Kids Need?

baby parenting Sep 05, 2019

Alright you get it, sleep is important.  But why are studies showing our children are sleep deprived?  How do we help them with this?  How do we even know this is happening? So, how much sleep do kids need?  Your newborn or your toddler, or even your teenager?  It seems that kids, no matter what age, are not getting enough sleep.

In this article, we will look at how many hours of sleep kids need and go over some tips on how you can help them get better quality sleep. 

The good news here is that sleep is pretty well studied.  There is some good documentation and science dedicated to how much sleep children need.

The bad news is that so many kids are sleep deprived and it affects their brain development and their behavior.   We have everything from increased use of screens, busy schedules, and lack of bedtime structure that is causing the sleep deprivation.

Some experts are some calling this lack of sleep a hidden epidemic because we are not realizing how bad it is and how much it is affecting our kids.

Let’s look at how much sleep kids need for optimal health based on their ages.  I combined data from 2 well-respected organizations here in America: The National Sleep Foundation and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM):

For Infants, which is newborn to 3 months, the recommended amount of sleep is 14 to 17 hours in a 24 hour day.  Children this age typically don’t sleep this long at one time so this is the total which includes the multiple naps throughout the day.

For children 4 months to 11 months, the recommended amount of sleep needed is a total of 12 to 15 hours which also includes their naps

Then for toddlers (1-2 years old), they need 11-14 hours of sleep which again includes their naps.

For children 3-5 years old, they need 10-13 hours of sleep.  Most kids begin to nap less at this age so they need these hours overnight. With children 6-12 years old it is recommended they get 9 – 12 hours of sleep each night.

For teenagers….13-17 years old, they need to get 8-10 hours of sleep and 18 to 25-year-olds, should get 7-9 hours which is what we as adults should be getting.  I think I’m going to need to go to bed earlier. So now that you know how many hours of sleep kids need to get, let’s look at a few ways we can help our kids get better quality sleep:

1) Create a nighttime routine – This is probably the #1 factor in children getting good sleep.  We have an entire video on nighttime routines.  You figure out what time they need to get up, how much sleep they need and work backward to make sure they are going to bed on time.  Do bath, pajamas, brush teeth, storytime, etc.  Even as they get older, it’s still important to have a routine.

2) Stick to the routine and keep a regular schedule – It is really up to us as parents to make sure they stick to the schedule.  Even on weekends, you should try to keep it consistent and not veer from the routine and schedule.

3) Create a sleep-friendly environment – There are 3 things to being sleep-friendly:  removing distractions, room temperature, and safety. Remove distractions from the room and the bed itself.  When they are young, mobiles, lights, noise, etc. are actually distractions.  When they get older…. clocks, televisions, any electronics can inhibit the sleep environment. For the temperature, keep the room cool.  Warm or cold is not ideal but nice and cool is good.  And then regarding their safety, especially when they are young, make sure they feel safe.  If they are afraid of monsters you can give them a spray bottle to be used as a monster spray or night light can also help.

4) No electronics or television right before bed.  The light from screens reduces our melatonin which is used for sleep.  It’s said that if you are going to use a screen, it should be about 2 hours before bed.

5) Nutrition & Activity – If they are always hungry before bed try to make a snack at least 45 minutes to 1 hour before bed, not right before.  Some good snacks are whole-grain toast, a slice of cheese, bananas, or the tried and true warm glass of milk.   Just make sure they are not having sugar right before bed or anything that will provide energy.  Activity during the day is also going to help them sleep.  We all see this when our young kids have a really active day….they are out.  So activity can help them get a good night’s sleep and sleep longer.

6) Focus on relaxation – The winding down and getting your body to relax should be the focus rather than sleep.  Many people try so hard to sleep that they can’t.  The key is to learn to relax.  I like this because it teaches us that rest is important, even if we are not sleeping, learning how to calm your body is helpful.

You now understand how much sleep kids need….and in most cases, it is more than they are currently getting. Let’s help our children become better sleepers. 

Watch the "How Much Sleep Do Kids Need?" video here:

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