Parenting Tips

Sleep needed by Age – How long is enough for kids?

Babies, young children and teens need more sleep than adults to support rapid physical and mental growth. Parents know that sleep for kids is vital, but not many know exactly how much sleep is needed by age and recommended for every stage of the child’s development. Sleep is needed to maintain overall health and well-being as a lack of sleep is often leads to many health-related concerns.

But how much sleep do children really need? The answer is that it depends on your child needs. Babies for example need more sleep than toddlers or grown-up children. Thus, the 8-hour sleep recommendation, for example, works for growing children but not for babies as sleep needs fluctuate as you grow.

Wondering how much sleep your infant, older child, or teenager need? 

1. Newborns (0-3 months):  14-17 hours/day

Babies develop their sleeping cycle at a time when they are around 2-3 months old, although they sleep in several phases throughout the day at about 2.5 to 4 hours each time from day and night.

It is recommended that babies sleep range of 14-17 hours per day, the most sleep at any age group. This will help the newborn baby fully develop both physically and mentally . This sleep recommendation could, however, be broken down to several periods throughout the day.

2. Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours/day

By the time your baby reaches around 4 months old, sleeping habits starts to develop and your infant may start sleeping longer at night although there will still be naps during the day.

It is advised that infants at 4-11 months get between 12 and 15 hours of sleep every day, and this also includes several naps during the day time.

sleep needed by age

3. Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours/day

By the age of one, toddlers start sleeping less and is only recommended 11-14 hours of sleep in a day as they start to become more mobile and physically active.

While it is difficult to set the sleeping times yet, it recommended that parents encourage and stick to a regular nap time and bedtime schedule at this age to ensure the kids get the proper amount of sleep that they need.

4. Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours/day

By this age, it is recommended that children get 10-13 hours of sleep per day despite more social activities and at times, as kids this age starts to go to school. 

The 10-13 hours of sleep can be combined at night and separate naps during the day if necessary, and depending on your child’s daily activities.

5. School-age children (6-13 years): 9-11 hours/day

The sleeping needs of school-age children drops to around 9-11 hours per day when they reach 6-13 years old.

At this stage kids tend to have more extracurricular activities both at home and in school to occupy their time.  It is still important though to encourage consistent sleeping time to ensure that your child gets the recommended sleep hours in a day to prepare them for the activities the next day.

6. Teens (14-17 years): 8-10 hours/day

By the time your kids reach high school and are already at 14-17 years old, the real challenge of getting them to have enough sleep starts. 

Teenagers will find it hard to fall asleep at an early hour as they become more preoccupied with social activities, new relationships and extreme use of modern technology through the internet. 

Add to that is the early start to school every day causing sleep deprivation. Most teenagers only get about 7 hours of sleep which is less than recommended. It is advised that parents try to set a sleeping time for their teenagers to help them get enough sleep.

Importance of Enough Sleep

Lack of sleep may cause stunted growth in children and other physiological effects such as tiredness, low immune system, weakness in general and slower mind retention in terms of learning.

Here are the other benefits of getting enough sleep:

For children:

  • Proper sleep makes children more creative and focused.
  • Children with enough sleep increase concentration for a longer time.
  • Enough sleep helps children develop their problem-solving skills.
  • Good sleep results in a physically active and more energetic child. 
  • Proper sleep makes kids learn and remember things easier.
  • Children who get enough sleep tend to be more sociable and outgoing.

For teens:

  • Lack of sleep for teens leads to increased levels of obesity, lack of focus and acne.
  • Teens getting less sleep are also more prone to having higher chances of depression and anxiety.
  • increased stress level, forgetfulness, lack of focus, and irritability.
  • Physical weakness, low motivation in general, and could also result in a drop in the body’s immunity making them more susceptible to many diseases.

Short vs. Long Naps

A 15 to 20 minutes of nap within the day can help your child get rid of lack of sleep during the night. Be mindful, however, that a sleep longer than 20 minutes, would risk your child to falling into a deeper sleep. They might experience some headache or feel groggy for a while as the sleep cycle is not completed when they suddenly wake up.

A full sleep cycle takes about 90 minutes. So if your child has enough time for a nap, let them sleep for at least 90 minutes to avoid the headache from a short nap.

Tip: Avoid letting your child take a nap towards the end of the day or they will be unable to fully and properly sleep at night. It is recommended that kids (even teenagers) take a nap in the early afternoon, avoiding evening naps, to avoid disruption in their sleeping cycle at night.

Signs and symptoms of lack of sleep

Aside from the physical manifestation of a lack of sleep for children like drowsiness and yawning during the day, lack of appetite and irritability, here are the other symptoms that parents should be cautious about on their children:

  • Difficulty waking up in the morning.
  • Drowsing off again after being woken up repeatedly.
  • Yawning frequently most of the day.
  • Tiredness and feeling of wanting to sleep during the day.
  • Staying close to bed within the day and closing the eyes unconsciously.
  • Falling asleep or feeling drowsy in school or at work.
  • Showing a lack of focus in activities
  • Your kid might show symptoms of being more forgetful than usual.
  • A headache – especially for the teens – that appears out of nowhere.
  • A crying and irritable baby could also be a warning of your baby lacking sleep.

How to Get More Restful Sleep

The best way for your baby, small kid or even teenager to get a more restful sleep is to encourage them to avoid any distraction before bedtime and to set a consistent sleep schedule to follow. 

Although it takes time to get used to a consistent sleeping routine, having one will ensure that your children could get the best quality and the recommended time of sleep that suits their specific needs at every stage of development.

Here are some other things that might affect your child’s sleep:

  • Too much exposure to blue light: when your child is too exposed to blue light from lamps, or screen of mobile phones, tablets or even television, they will have difficulty sleeping because this type of light encourages the brain to remain active. It also blocks the production of melatonin known as the ‘sleep hormone’. The best advise, limit your child’s exposure to blue light and try to have a dim light in the room when it’s sleeping time.
  • Consuming sweets before bedtime: for adults, this is coffee, but for kids, consuming anything sweet at night will surely cause them to sleep less or to take a long time before feeling sleepy. So avoid giving your child something sweet at night.
  • Eating too much too close to bedtime: aside from eating sweets, eating too much could also hinder your child sleeping time and disrupt their sleeping schedule as their brain continues to function to absorb the food. So let your kids eat early and limit their food intake at night.
  •  No set sleeping time: when your little one or not-so-little ones have a bad sleeping habits or sleeping at different times every day, it could disturb their sleeping pattern and rhythm which could be very stressful when your child is in school and didn’t get a good sleep.
  • Mattress that is too hard or too soft or too hot: your child’s sleep could also be affected by the type of bedding that you use. Is it too hard, too soft, too hot? Then, it won’t give your child a good sleep and instead cause joint and muscle pain, making them uneasy through the night especially for babies.

Tip: Keep a sleep schedule for your kids and encourage them to follow their sleeping time to ensure they get the recommended hours of sleep and also make it easier for their body to adjust to a proper sleeping time. Once this has been established, their body will tell them when it is time to go to bed and wake up depending on the right amount of sleep necessary for your their age and needs.

Sleeping Needs of Pregnant Women 

Aside from children and teenagers, pregnant women also have their own specific sleeping needs.

In general, pregnant women need more sleep than average adults, particularly in the first trimester of pregnancy as the body adjusts to changes resulting in fatigue and sleepiness during the day. 

Although it is recommended that mothers-to-be should spend at least eight hours in bed each night, they are advised to get at least seven hours of sleep plus additional sleep in the form of naps during the day. Women in their second trimester often sleep better since their body has adjusted already to physical and hormonal changes. 

By the third trimester, the real challenge of getting enough sleep is worst for pregnant women as more frequent urination occurs, lower back and muscle pain intensifies and the anxiety of the upcoming delivery becomes imminent.

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