How Much a Child Needs to Sleep According to Their Age

When asking how much a child needs to sleep, in addition to their age, it's important to know their characteristics and daytime habits. Keep reading to learn more.
How Much a Child Needs to Sleep According to Their Age

Last update: 19 December, 2021

“He doesn’t sleep at all”, “She sleeps through the night”, “He was never much of a napper”, “I have to wake her up to nurse.” These phrases perfectly describe the first years of a child’s life, when sleep is a constant concern for their parents. But beyond parental concerns, knowing how much a child needs to sleep and complying with this are essential in order to preserve their health. Let’s take a deeper look.

The importance of sleep

Sleep is a basic need, especially early in life.

While we sleep, in addition to recovering energy, events of enormous importance occur in our body. Among them, growth and certain metabolic and biochemical processes.

There are also changes at the brain or cognitive level, such as the classification of information, the consolidation of learning and memory, among others. Therefore, the lack of quality sleep affects the ability to concentrate and pay attention, which is key during the school period.

Finally, it’s important to note that children don’t sleep in the same way throughout the world, as rituals vary from culture to culture and from family to family.

Signs that a child needs to sleep

Children are able to send signals that they need to sleep from a very young age. However, they can’t always verbalize it (“I want to sleep”). In fact, very often, they state the opposite: They fight off sleeping and do everything possible to stay awake to continue with their play.

Some of the direct and indirect signs of tiredness are as follows :

  • Yawning
  • Rub from the eyes
  • Irritability

 

A baby crying in his crib.

How much a child needs to sleep according to age

As time goes by, children need fewer hours of sleep. This is because sleep changes and matures as the brain develops. However, in the first years of life sleep is characterized by being unstable, and this trend is maintained until the third birthday.

Next, we’ll share an approximate list of recommended hours of rest so that you know how much your child needs to rest at each stage of their life. Pay attention!

  • Newborns: They sleep around 16 hours a day, without a differentiated pattern between day and night.
  • 3 months: In general, the average daily rest is 15 hours, of which 8 to 9 hours are night sleep and 7 hours are daytime sleep.
  • 6 months: From the second semester, the average daily hours are 14. Within these, 10 hours are night sleep and only 4 hours are daytime sleep.
  • 1 year: From the child’s first birthday, the number of total hours doesn’t change, but the pattern does. Therefore, they tend to sleep 10-11 hours at night and 3 hours during the day. They still take 2 naps.
  • 1.5 years: They sleep 13.5 hours a day in total, 11 hours at night and 2.5 hours during the day (in a single nap).
  • 2 years: For this stage, the number of hours per day is reduced to 13, of which 11 are nighttime sleep and only 2 hours daytime sleep.

Up to 5 years, naps are usually necessary and recommended. However, after 3 years of age, a high percentage of children abandon them.

Besides the numbers, it’s important to consider the real needs of each child. That is, there may be general recommendations, but each child should rest based on their activities for the day.

Finally, when a difficulty or alteration is found in the child’s sleep, it’s important to pay attention to the context, as these changes may correspond to a stressful event. For example, when their primary caregiver resumes their work schedule and begins to spend fewer hours with the child.

What factors can make it difficult for a child to sleep?

Despite nocturnal awakenings, a child can maintain quality sleep. This will depend on the stage they’re in and the environment around them.

However, frequent or increased awakenings may indicate the presence of some sleep disturbance that should be evaluated. Therefore, you need to pay attention to certain changes in daytime behavior that may suggest a lack of rest.

Some of the factors that affect the quality of sleep of the child are the following:

  • Separation anxiety
  • Hyperstimulation
  • Uncertainty and anguish
  • Night terrors: Sometimes motivated by silence and darkness, from 2 years of age
  • The teething process

How to accompany the child’s sleep

To facilitate the child’s rest, it’s important to establish a stable but flexible routine. This means predictable enough to allow you to anticipate sleep time (like the bath-dinner-story sequence) but adaptable to extraordinary circumstances (like a birthday).

When children are older, it’s essential to respect certain times, such as dinner. Likewise, you need to incorporate calm habits: Share a story, put on their pajamas, turn off the television, or lie down next to them and caress them until they fall asleep.

It’s also advisable to put the child to bed when they’re drowsy, but before they’re is asleep. That way, if they wake up at night, they won’t be surprised or scared by not knowing where they are. In addition, this will facilitate the association between sleep and their crib or bed.

A baby sleeping in his crib.

The importance of taking care of the tranquility of a child

Many times, we come across recommendations from experts who recommend letting children cry themselves to sleep and not getting up to tend to them.

However, keep in mind that while babies cry, they suffer. And in addition to not being respectful of their needs, we could generate a counterproductive effect: That they’re even more afraid of the night and of being alone. Or what’s even worse, they could end up internalizing the idea that no one will respond to their cries.

Therefore, for parents and children to rest easy, it’s important to remain available to their calls. This is the basis of secure attachment and what will allow them, little by little, to gain autonomy and confidence to sleep much better.

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