How Much Sleep Do Children of Different Ages Need?

Author’s avatar OptimumSleep

I suppose now is the best time to talk to you - I see you’ve just put your baby down to bed. Awww… look at him there, smiling in his sleep!

Before he gets up and grabs your attention again with his cute antics, I want to discuss something important with you:

Your baby’s sleep duration and schedule…

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You may have doubts about the right duration of sleep for children and wonder if they are sleeping enough for their growth and development. You might also have concerns about your child’s oversleeping.

Ok, don’t worry. We’re going to discuss everything you need to know about what children need sleep-wise at every stage of development, from babies all the way into their teens. Let’s begin.

Do Kids Sleep for the Same Duration as Adults?

This is an easy one - in a word, no. I want to begin with making you understand that children are very different than us adults when it comes to sleep.

We all know that adults need sleep of at least 8 hours every night to feel fresh and full of energy. However, the same cannot be said about children. In fact, there isn’t even one rule that applies to kids - there are different ‘rules’ for other age groups.

As adults, we’re already full-grown and well and truly set in a routine. But babies and children are obviously still growing, and they are going to experience changes in their routine frequently as they grow and enter different stages of development.

And these stages can be relatively short-lived and pass relatively quickly. For instance, milestones can be reached every couple of weeks, month, every three months, and so on.

This rapid growth and development mean they are bound to have regular changes in their schedule, including when they sleep and for how long. If we want to know the recommended duration of sleep for children, we need to consider their exact age. Let’s move ahead and find out how much your children should sleep based on their age.

How Much Sleep Do Children Need?

First of all, every child is different, and this extends to how long they sleep. There will be variations in the duration of sleep children need even if they belong to the same age group.

However, researchers have concluded the average time children should be sleeping. Let’s look at what AASM, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, recommends in terms of the sleep schedule for children of different age groups to maintain optimal health and support healthy growth and development:

Sleep Recommendations Based on Children’s Age

Newborn Babies Less than 4 Months Old

This can be very tricky! Your baby is just born and yet to find their bearings in this big new world. At this time, your baby’s sleep schedule is going to be highly unpredictable.

In fact, the sleep duration of infants at this age is so varied that even researchers have not been able to come to any definitive conclusion.

So, right now, the best you can do is adjust to your child’s routine and enjoy parenthood. Yes, it’s exhausting, but that cute, innocent little tyke makes it all worth it, right?

One thing you must not ignore is excessive sleeping. If you find your baby is sleeping for longer than 10 hours continuously, it’s advisable to consult a pediatrician. The doctor might recommend specific tests to determine if the child receives sufficient nourishment and energy through the milk or formula they’re feeding on.

Infants 4 to 12 Months Old

By this age, you will have already figured out how much your baby sleeps. By 4 months, most babies can set a routine for themselves.

AASM recommends sleep of 12 to 16 hours a day for infants of this age. This is the total duration that includes all the times your baby sleeps throughout the day, including short naps.

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One more thing; your baby may get bored with the same schedule and might want to enjoy some change. Do not get surprised if they decide to stay awake until past midnight and get up as late as noon on some days. However, if this continues or happens too regularly, it is advisable to contact a doctor to find the reason for excessive sleepiness.

Kids Aged 1 to 2 years

This is the most beautiful phase of parenthood. Your baby starts taking their first steps, recognizes you, has developed teeth, and even starts reacting to and reciprocating your actions.

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Enjoy this phase to the maximum. You are going to cherish these moments forever!

And as far as sleep is concerned, it should be 11 to 14 hours per day. At this age, your child will begin to somewhat behave like an adult - at least as far as sleep is concerned.

He or she will be sleeping more at night just like you and may nap an hour or two in the afternoon. This means you are less likely to spend sleepless nights from now on. Yay!

At this stage, you have the opportunity to regulate your child’s sleep schedule because, by now, their body will be ready to adapt to whatever routine you wish to set in place.

Children Aged 3 to 5 Years

The rapid development of speech will mark these growing years of your child. Along with this, the required sleep duration will continue to reduce.

Your child will sleep for around 11 to 13 hours a day, including short naps. They will be taking fewer afternoon naps and get most of their sleep at night.

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During this phase, an important responsibility you have as a parent is to look for signs of too much sleepiness or sleeplessness. There is a sharp rise in the number of children diagnosed with autism and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) at this age.

Research has proven that children with autism tend to sleep less, and this sign, if ignored, can worsen their symptoms, especially aggressiveness.

It is found that a lack of sleep in autistic children can deprive them of the multiple benefits of a sound sleep, including brain growth, energy conservation, and memory consolidation.

Insufficient sleep may also exacerbate the severity of autism symptoms like repetitive behaviors and social and communication difficulties. Hence, parents should pay special attention to the sleep duration of children at this age.

Children Aged 6 to 12 Years

At this age, your child should be sleeping about 9 to 12 hours every day. They may even start throwing tantrums at having to get up in the morning, something they didn’t do until now.

Because, by this age, children tend to have realized the comfort they get from sleeping. Also, getting up and going to school is not something that would motivate most children to rise early!

Hence, you may experience some difficulties pulling off the duvet to make your child wake up and get ready for school.

The best way to ensure your child is fine with getting up on time is to keep in mind the required duration of sleep for them and to put them to the bed at an appropriate time at night - perhaps a bit earlier if there is a struggle to get them up in the morning (though getting them to go to bed can also bring its own struggles!).

You may also want to invest in a good quality mattress to help ensure your child gets undisturbed sleep for the recommended duration.

Also, Research has shown that the signs of ADHD tend to become more evident at this age. Children who have ADHD may exhibit aggressiveness when asked to go to sleep or wake up. They may also have a lower sleep duration or disturbed sleep. They may get up several times during the night without any apparent reason. Do keep a lookout for these signs of sleep deprivation in your child at this stage.

Teens Aged 13 to 18 years

Your little baby has grown up into a teenager now. And they will behave almost like an adult (almost - they still have some hard to shake child-like qualities!). Even their sleep duration, which is about 8 to 10 hours, will be closer to what is recommended for adults.

Their sleep patterns will become more regular and predictable. As a caring parent of a teenager, make sure they enjoy a sound sleep every night. Keep a lookout for the signs of tiredness in the daytime.

If you find your child seems too tired, talk to them and discuss the issue. Make sure they’re not suffering from any psychological stress that is not allowing them to sleep peacefully. Take appropriate steps to address the problems they might be facing.

This will help ensure proper healthy growth and overall development of your child so that they grow up to be healthy and responsible adults.

The Bottom-line

Babies, kids, children, and teenagers have a significantly higher sleep duration than adults; this is needed to support their physical and mental development. Both a lack of proper sleep as well as excessive sleep can pose problems for their development.

Being a responsible parent, you must ensure your kid gets the recommended duration of sleep every day.

If you notice your child’s sleep duration is too little for his or her age, take steps to avoid the causative factors, which could be anything from stress to an uncomfortable mattress.

If you notice your child is sleeping too much, it’s also important to find the reason. It could be malnourishment or several other potential issues that should be diagnosed by a doctor. Analyzing your child’s sleep duration in comparison with the recommendations is necessary not only for your child’s health but also to detect any physical or psychological issues that might be causing stress and anxiety.

There’s more to sleep than just sleep duration though, so we highly advise you to read our full guide on children sleep.