As every parent knows, too little sleep makes a child cranky, tired, whiny and generally unpleasant to be around. Children’s sleep needs vary by age, but individual differences, activity level, illness, family stress and other issues can affect a child’s sleep requirements. The following guideline indicates the total amount of sleep (naps and nighttime sleep combined) that children of different ages need daily.
- 0 to 1 month: 15 to 16 hours
Newborns sleep an average 15 to 16 hours a day, but in short bursts of 2 to 4 hours at a time. Too young to have developed circadian rhythm, there is no pattern to a newborn’s sleep/wake cycle which is governed primarily by hunger.
- 1 to 12 months: 14 to 15 hours
Between 1 and 4 months, infant sleep periods slowly increase in length. As circadian rhythm begins to develop, infants are able to differentiate between day and night and regular sleep patterns begin to develop. Setting and sticking to a regular schedule for morning and afternoon naps (usually 1 and 2 hours, respectively) and evening bedtime helps children establish a regular sleep cycle.
- 1 to 3 years: 12 to 14 hours
As they approach their second birthday, most toddlers stop taking a morning nap. The afternoon nap may range from 1 to 3 hours, fluctuating with age, activity level and health. It is important to establish a bedtime routine during the toddler years that helps the child wind down and prepare for sleep.