Does your child need more sleep?

by | May 28, 2016 | Sleep Consultant

Does your child need more sleep?

Children often need more sleep than their parents allow for. Indeed, if your child won’t nap, or refuses to go to bed before 10pm at night, it’s easy to assume that they just don’t need much sleep. Yet that second wind, hyperactivity or difficulty winding down they display is most likely a sign that your child is NOT getting ENOUGH sleep, and could actually be sleep deprived. But how do you know if your child needs more sleep? That’s when sleep recommendations can be helpful (for a minimum amount at least).

So how much sleep should your child get?

Sleep recommendations

In June 2016, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine released recommendations on how much sleep children need to promote optimal health. In reaching these guidelines, leading sleep experts reviewed 864 scientific articles that looked at the relationship between sleep duration and health.

The review found that sleeping the recommended number of hours on a regular basis was associated with improved attention, better behaviour, increased learning, enhanced memory and emotional regulation, improved mental and physical health, and higher quality of life overall; some very good reasons to make sleep a priority.

Of note, these recommendations suggested increases in the amount of sleep both infants and school-aged children need compared to previous recommendations released by the US National Sleep Foundation in February 2015.

To avoid the health risks associated with insufficient sleep, experts say your child needs to be getting the recommended amount of sleep (including naps) per day, on a regular basis. The recommendations for the different age groups are highlighted in bold so you can jump to the ones that apply to your family.

Notably, newborns under the age of 4 months have not been included in the recommendations due to wide variations in hours and sleeping patterns.

Age: 4-12 months Recommendation: 12-16 hours

While up to 16 hours is ideal, most infants only get the minimum 12 hours of sleep a day. At this age, establishing healthy sleep habits should be a priority. Your baby is much more social now, and his sleep patterns are more adult-like.

Babies typically need three naps a day at four months old, reducing to two naps around 6 months of age, at which time they are also physically capable of sleeping through the night with no feeds!

Age: 1-2 years Recommendation: 11-14 hours

Although toddlers need up to 14 hours of sleep a day, they often receive only 10 to 11 hours.

As your child moves past their first year toward 18-21 months of age he will likely only nap once a day. The rest is made up at night.

Age: 3-5 years Recommendation: 10-13 hours

At age 3, a lot of children are still napping, although naps become shorter. At five years of age most children have given up all naps. These children need to receive their full quota over night.

Children aged 3-5 years will often go to bed between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. and wake up around 11 hours later, if nothing disturbs them. In saying that, be aware that if your child engages in a lot of physically activity during the day he needs more sleep to recharge. This applies to children who are just starting school also; all the change and mental activity can make them more tired than normal, at least initially.

Age: 6-12 years Recommendation: 9-12 hours

With sport, school, and family activities, bedtimes gradually become later for children aged 6-12 years, with most 12-years-olds going to bed around 9 p.m.

In this age group you’ll find a wide range of bedtimes and total sleep times. Although the average duration is only 9 hours, a lot of these older children could benefit from more sleep, especially if they are physically active or have a learning difference.

Age: 13-18 years Recommendation: 8-10 hours

Sleep remains just as vital to the health and well-being of teenagers as it did when they were younger; indeed teenagers appear to need more sleep than they did in previous years. Unfortunately social and societal pressures conspire against them getting the proper amount of sleep in a lot of cases.

These recommendations published in The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine have been endorsed by the American Academy of Paediatrics, the Sleep Research Society, and the American Association of Sleep Technologists..

But how much is enough?

Even if your child meets the minimum recommendations, how do you know if your child is actually getting enough sleep? Every child is unique after all.

A child who is well-rested is curious, energetic, happy, playful and eager to learn. If this doesn’t sound like your child, and you think your child could be missing some of the sleep he requires, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your child seem cranky, irritable, or overtired during the day?
  • Do you have to wake your child almost every morning?
  • Does your child frequently fall asleep during car trips?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your child could indeed be sleep deprived and not be getting the sleep he or she needs. To change this pattern, you’ll need to help them develop good sleep habits. If you’re not sure where to start, book in a free 15 minute sleep call. or download your free getting started guide for babies and toddlers. Because everyone needs a good nights sleep!