Sleep needs vary from child to child, and not everyone needs the same amount of sleep. Sleep guidelines by age can help ensure your child gets the proper amount of sleep to avoid health problems related to not sleeping enough or sleeping too much.
Sleep needs vary from child to child, and not everyone needs the same amount of sleep. Sleep guidelines by age can help ensure your child gets the proper amount of sleep to avoid health problems related to not sleeping enough or sleeping too much.

Sleep varies from child to child. Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep, but not sleeping enough, sleeping too much, and disturbed sleep can cause health problems.

Kids and sleep: infants from 4 to 12 months

Infants aged 4 to 12 months should get 12 to 16 hours of sleep per 24 hours on a regular basis. This includes naps.

Sleep is closely tied to developmental and brain growth. In the first year of life, your baby's brain is active during sleep. Your baby's brain is:

  • Releasing growth hormones
  • Building connections at an intense rate
  • Repairing tissues
  • Integrating learning

Your baby needs sleep in order to adapt and to learn. It’s common for sleep patterns to change when your baby learns a new skill and the brain is going through a major development. This can feel like your baby suddenly isn’t sleeping well anymore, but is often just normal change.

Instead of focusing on sleeping through the night, focus on helping your infant get regular naps and a total of 12 to 16 hours of sleep in a day. Doing this consistently will promote good health.

Toddlers: 1 to 2 years

Kids 1 to 2 years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis. This should include naps, which are usually in the afternoon.

Toddlers and older children who don’t sleep well or enough can have learning and behavior problems with long-lasting consequences. Your toddler’s brain is still developing and proper sleep can help.

Kids, and especially toddlers, do well on a regular sleep routine. This can include a warm bath, a bedtime snack, brushing teeth and bathroom breaks, a story or quiet time, and then sleep.

Other tips to improve your kids’ sleep include:

  • Do put your toddler to bed at the same time every night
  • Do put your toddler to bed drowsy but not asleep
  • Don’t let your toddler nap too long or too late in the day
  • Don’t give your toddler a bottle or sippy cup of milk or juice in bed

Preschoolers: 3 to 5 years

Children 3 to 5 years of age should regularly sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours. This includes naps, but you might find as they get older they might not need one. Your preschooler might be able to get 12 hours of sleep through the night and avoid a nap if they have an earlier bedtime.

It’s common for preschoolers to delay bedtime. They may get out of bed a lot, ask for drinks and snacks, or want you to sleep with them. It is important to keep their bedtime routine consistent and calm. You can also:

  • Avoid TV, tablet computers, or other screens before bed
  • Take care of snacks, drinks, and bathroom breaks before lights-out
  • Have a nighttime chat, hug, or kiss before lights out; resist going back in when they call for you
  • Put them back in bed with little interaction, repeatedly if necessary

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Grade schoolers: 6 to 12 years

Kids 6 to 12 years of age should regularly sleep nine to 12 hours per 24 hours. At this age, sleep and school are an important mix. Not enough sleep at this age can lead to:

  • ‌Poor school performance
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Behavior problems
  • Irritability

Lack of sufficient sleep can also lead to obesity, headaches, and immune system problems, which can lead to your child getting sick easily. It is important to keep a regular sleep schedule for good health and learning.

Some parents choose to have strict sleep schedules on school nights and relax on the weekends and holidays. Avoid sleep-ins and oversleeping on the weekends, though, as this can mix up the sleep routine and make it harder for your children to wake up during the week.

Teens: 13 to 18 years

Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis. Without enough sleep, your teen has a higher risk of:

  • Memory problems
  • Depression
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Poor school performance
  • Irritability and mood problems
  • Falling asleep while driving

Use of late-night technology, early school start times, homework, and sports or social activities can all interfere with sleep. Keep regular sleep routines and set house rules regarding screen-time, social activities, and homework. Rules might include:

  • No screens in the bedroom after 8 pm
  • Limited after school sports and activities
  • Homework must be done right after school and before any extra activities
  • Teens must be home and starting wind down at a set time every night

Talk to your doctor

If you think sleep and sleep habits might be affecting your child’s life, talk to your doctor. Take note of any sleep problems like snoring, or trouble falling asleep, or heavy breathing while sleeping. Your doctor can help you with your kids and sleep.

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Medically Reviewed on 10/6/2021
References
American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children: "Healthy Sleep Habits: How Many Hours Does Your Child Need?"

Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School: "4 ways to help your child get enough sleep."

Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: "Recommended Amount of Sleep for Pediatric Populations: A Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine."

Mayo Clinic: "Child sleep: Put preschool bedtime problems to rest."

Nationwide Children’s Hospital: "Healthy Sleep Habits for Infants and Toddlers," "Sleep in Adolescents."

University of Washington School of Public Health: "From Safe Sleep to Healthy Sleep: A Systemic Perspective on Sleep In the First Year."