Babies and children need a lot of sleep. Their brains need time to develop, their bodies need time to grow and rest – and their parents need a break! Developing good sleep habits in childhood has countless benefits for later life.
New parents are often surprised by how much newborns sleep. As babies move beyond the newborn phase, parents – particularly those of spirited babies – can spend an inordinate amount of time and effort endeavouring to ensure that their baby is neither over-tired nor under-tired at bedtime, since this will help them settle most easily.
It is important to make sure that the sleep environment is conducive to sleep right from the start. This duvet buying guide provides useful information about sleep and helpful information about how to choose the right products, such as cot mattresses and night-lights. Parents can help by setting a good example in their own sleep habits.
Sleep is a very personal thing and no two babies or children (even twins!) are exactly alike in terms of their sleep needs. Yet it is helpful to understand approximately how much sleep constitutes an appropriate amount for babies and children of different ages.
1-4 months old
Total daily sleep: 14 – 15 hours, split between several daytime naps and longer stretches at night. Good habits can be established even at this early stage – many new parents report that baby massage helps their babies settle well to sleep.
4-12 months old
Total daily sleep: 14 – 15 hours, with more predictable daytime naps and longer stretches at night.
1-3 years old
Total daily sleep: 12 – 14 hours. During this phase, toddlers usually drop from 2 naps to 1, and then gradually drop their nap entirely, though some children continue having a daytime nap for longer.
3-6 years old
Total daily sleep: 10 – 12 hours. As children progress from toddlerhood to school age, it is vital that they continue to get the right amount of sleep so that they are alert at school. This means maintaining an appropriately early bedtime.
7-12 years old
Total daily sleep: 10 – 11 hours. Children at this age are likely to want to exert more control about when they go to bed – but remember they still need nearly as much sleep as a 3 year old!
12-18 years old
Total daily sleep: 8 – 9 hours. Teenagers’ sleep patterns vary widely and some children may need significantly more than this. They need to be supported to go to bed on time – make sure their sleeping environment actually promotes sleep!
Sleep is a crucial part of child health and it goes hand in hand with healthy eating and exercise habits. Just like adults, simple changes – such as getting more fresh air during the day and avoiding eating a big meal just before bedtime – can help children to get to sleep easily and stay asleep all night.