Few things as vital to our overall health and well being seem as elusive to get enough of as sleep. While adults can struggle through a day without getting enough sleep the night before, children have a much harder time functioning when sleep deprived.
How much sleep a child needs on a nightly basis depends on a variety of factors, including the age of the child and their activity level. However, for parents looking to gauge how much sleep their child needs on a nightly basis, here are a few general guidelines.
One to Four Weeks: 15 to 16 hours a day
A newborn baby will usually sleep anywhere between 15 and 18 hours a day, but in short, bursts that last between two to four hours at a time. However, the amount of time a child sleeps can vary, as babies suffering from colic may sleep for less time, while a baby born premature may sleep for longer.
Unfortunately, since newborns have yet to develop an internal clock or adopt circadian rhythms, their sleep patterns have little to do with night/day cycles. Most infants actually have no sleep pattern at all.
One to Four Months: 14 to 15 hours a day
By the time your baby reaches six weeks, he or she will have begun to calm down, and you may begin to notice an emerging sleep pattern. Instead of sleeping for only a few hours at a time, your child should begin sleeping between four to six hours a day, and more often in the evening. During this period, your baby should begin developing an internal clock and circadian rhythms.
Four to 12 Months: 14 to 15 hours a day
Even though 15 hours a day would be considered an ideal amount of sleep for an infant, most babies will only sleep around 12 hours a day once they reach 11 months. Helping your baby establish a healthy sleep pattern should become your primary goal during this age, as their sleep pattern starts to become more like an adult’s.
One to Three Years: 12 to 14 hours a day
Once your baby moves beyond his or her first year and into the 18 to 21 month period, she will likely start napping just once a day instead of in the morning, afternoon, and early evening. Despite toddler’s need for up to 14 hours of sleep a night, most can function fine if they receive 10 hours a day.
While most children between the ages of 21 to 36 months need at least one nap a day, they will typically go to bed anywhere between seven to nine at night and wake up between six and eight in the morning.
Three to Six Years: 10 to 12 hours a day
At this age, a child should have an established bedtime that falls between seven and nine p.m. and will awake anywhere between six and eight a.m. Even though a child might still nap occasionally at three, naps should all but stop by the time she turns five.
Seven to 12 Years: 10 to 11 hours a day
Now that your child has reached grade-school age, his family activities, social, and school requirements generally end up pushing his bedtime to a later and later hour. The majority of 12-year-olds tend to have a bedtime that approaches nine p.m. While children in this age range still have a wide range of bedtimes and hours they usually awaken, they only average about nine hours a night of sleep.
12 to 18 Years: Eight to nine hours a night
While teenagers need sleep just as much as when younger, their social and school demands generally make getting enough sleep a night difficult. Parents should still encourage their kids to get plenty of rest during these formative years, but shouldn’t be surprised if like mom and dad, they get less than they need.