As any parent will attest to, dealing with an overtired baby, child or even teenager, is no fun for anyone, least of all the child themselves. Besides maintaining a semblance of harmony in your home, there are more important reasons to ensure that your child gets enough sleep though. Adequate sleep is essential for growth, immunity, learning and memory and is when the body heals and recovers. Moreover, poor sleep in early childhood has been linked to problems with the immune system, anxiety and depression, allergic rhinitis, difficulties regulating emotions and concentrating, as well as longterm health problems such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular risk.
Sleep needs change as your child grows, so it is helpful to know exactly how much sleep is enough for your child based on their age.
Newborn 0 – 3 months
Sleep needed: 14-17 hours
Very young babies who are yet to develop a circadian rhythm that helps up to distinguish day from night, rarely sleep through the night. Instead, they will sleep both during the day and at night, with each period of sleep lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to 3-4 hours at a time.
Infants 4 – 11 months old
Sleep needed: 12 – 15 hours
From approximately 2 months onwards babies start to sleep for longer periods at a time, particular between 12 – 5am. Thanks to the development of their circadian rhythm they start to spend more time awake during the day. Don’t be discouraged if your child still wakes in the night though – 25-50% of 6 months old do. Putting your baby into their cot at bedtime when they are still awake helps them learn to go to sleep by themselves. It also means that if they do wake in the night, they are more able to self-soothe themselves back to sleep.
Toddlers 1 – 2 years old
Sleep needed: 11 – 14 hours
As your child reaches the toddler years, they are more likely to experience a desire to exert their independence, as well as a fear of missing out and/or separation anxiety. This can translate to increased challenges at bedtime including tantrums and stalling tactics. Try to avoid power struggles with your child at bedtime as this may compound the issues, and instead create a nurturing, relaxing bedtime routine. Be patient but firm with them.
Preschoolers 3-5 years
Sleep needed: 10-13
While some preschoolers will still have a nap during the day, this will trail off before they start school. Sleep challenges that are common at this age are nightmares, night terrors and bed wetting.
School Kids 5 – 11 years
Sleep needed: 9 – 11 hours
School-aged children typically have busy schedules that include a variety of academic, social and extra-curricular activities and obligations. It’s important to ensure that these pursuits don’t interfere with your child getting a good night sleep as this can negatively affect their ability to concentrate and retain information at school.
Teenagers 14-17 years old
Sleep needed: 8 – 10 hours
During the teen years your child will naturally experience a shift in their circadian rhythm, making them want to go to sleep later and to sleep in. For this reason, it’s important for parents to establish a reasonable sleep schedule for their teen to ensure that they can still meet their school commitments and perform to the best of their ability.
How to Ensure Your Child Gets Adequate Sleep
If you feel like knowing how much sleep your child needs may be the easy part – getting them to achieve it is trickier –there are several steps that you can take to promote restful sleep in your child.
· Encourage your child to engage in periods of activity and rest each day.
· Be consistent with the time you put your child to bed each day, and when they wake.
· Make the bedroom a no-screen zone. The blue light from screens can upset your child’s circadian rhythm and make falling to sleep more difficult.
· Install dark curtains or block out blinds in your child’s room to block out the light. A soft night light can be used if they are afraid of the dark.
· Ensure your child’s room isn’t too warm. Setting the thermostat to a slightly cooler temperature creates a more comfortable sleep environment.
· Avoid caffeine, large meals and sugar-laden snacks before bed as these can negatively affect your child’s ability to fall asleep. Opt instead for a healthy bedtime snack if necessary.
· If possible, keep their bedroom quiet, or use a white noise machine to mask outside noise.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. If you have any concerns about a possible sleep disturbance we recommend talking to your local GP or health care provider.