Kids & Sleep

Baby & Kid's Sleep

By the time a child is two, they have spent more time asleep than awake. The first five years represent the highest period of growth for humans, thus sleep is critical to a child’s growth and development. During those formative initial five years of life, the affects on the human brain can impact our ability to learn for our entire life.  In fact, until the age of two, a child will spend 40 percent of his or her childhood asleep. This may seem a bit excessive, but it is especially important for children to get enough sleep, even more so than adults.

As your child grows, the number of hours of sleep they need lessens, their sleeping patterns become more regular, and the number of sleeping problems they could have increases.

Sleep and Newborns (1-2 Months) 

Sleep for newborns usually occurs on their own schedule around the clock, because their internal clock is not fully developed, their sleeping patterns will be more sporadic. Newborns will typically sleep 15 to 18 hours a day, with periods of one to three hours spent awake.  While sleeping, a newborn will remain active smiling, sucking their thumbs or twitching their arms and legs.

Newborns will indicate their need for sleep in a variety of ways from fussing and crying to rubbing their eyes. By putting newborns to bed when they are not fully asleep, but sleepy they will learn to fall asleep quickly and, eventually, learn to fall asleep on their own. 

Sleep and Infants (3-11 Months)

Infants will generally start to sleep through the night by six months.  Infants will sleep less than newborns; 12 to 14 hours a day.  The habit of putting infants to bed when sleepy and not asleep should be continued during this time. If this behavior continues, the infant will learn to put himself or herself back to sleep during the night. 

During this period, difficulty sleeping may arise due to social and developmental issues. Research has shown that insecure infants are more likely to develop a sleep disorder. It is also common for infants, 6-12 months old to develop separation anxiety, which can contribute to trouble sleeping as well.

Sleep and Toddlers (1-3 Years)

Toddlers generally need around the same amount of sleep as infants, 12 to 14 hours in a 24 hour period. It is not uncommon for a toddler to experience difficulty sleeping during this time.  Some problems include:

  • Resisting going to bed
  • Awaken during the night
  • Nighttime fears
  • Nightmares

These problems can spur from a multitude of factors. A toddler’s increase in cognitive, motor and social abilities coupled with their drive for independence can cause difficulty sleeping. Additionally, the ability to get out bed and separationanxiety can also cause sleeping problems.  

Sleep and Preschoolers (3-5 Years)

Preschoolers will generally sleep 11 to 13 hours a night and will generally not nap after they are five years old. During this time, the development of imagination can cause nighttime fears and nightmares; sleepwalking and sleep terrors peak as well. 

Sleep and School-Aged Children (5-12 years)

Children ages five to twelve need 9 to 11 hours of sleep. Achieving the proper amount of sleep during this time may be difficult due to increased demand from school, sports, and other extracurricular activities.  Difficulty sleeping during this time may peak due to an increased interest in TV, computers, Internet and caffeine products. Sleep disorders become prevalent at this age and can lead to mood swings and behavioral problems.

Electronics in the bedroom have been shown to decrease quality of sleep, decrease test scores in school and increase the risk of certain health conditions.  Electronics include computers, game consoles, televisions, and cell phones.  If your child is using a cell phone as an alarm, purchase an inexpensive clock that does not produce light. 

Trouble Sleeping and Children

On average, it is recommended that a child receive at least 9 hours of sleep per night.  Sleep deprivation, similarly to adults, can cause negative effects in performance at school, extracurricular activities, as well as, in social relationships. 

If you child exhibits any of the following symptoms of a sleep problem, contact a sleep professional:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Breathing pauses during sleep
  • Difficulty sleeping through the night and staying awake during the day
  • Snoring
  • Unexplained decrease in daytime performance
  • Unusual events during sleep such as sleepwalking or nightmares
  • Unable to concentrate at school
  • Lower test scores

If you child has trouble sleeping at night, check out sleep tips for children.

Promote Good Sleep Habits with a Bedtime Routine

Crying, stall tactics, and temper tantrums are all common battles a parent has to deal with when putting their child to bed. By implementing a bedtime routine, your child’s nighttime ritual will become calmer, easier and, ultimately, more beneficial to them.

There are a multitude of reasons why a bedtime routine is valuable to your child, one of the most important being it helps them prepare for bed. This promotes good sleeping habits early on and will benefit them later on in life. A bedtime routine also makes for a much smoother experience preparing your child for bed because the child then knows what to expect. Children thrive on consistency, and a bedtime routine is a good place to start.

How to start a bedtime routine with your child

Creating a bedtime routine for your child is important to their overall well-being. Follow these simple tips to create an optimal bedtime routine for your child:

  • At least 10 minutes before your child’s bedtime routine begins, give your child a warning to let them know it’s about to start.

  • Try to limit eating or drinking about an hour before your child goes to bed. Food or a drink could keep your child up and this will also start to wind him or her down.

  • As mentioned before, consistency is key! Make sure your child is waking up and going to bed at the same time each day.

  • Incorporate a schedule into your routine that includes brushing teeth, going to the bathroom, giving hugs and kisses or reading a book in a dimly lit room.

  • A warm bath or shower before bed is great for sleep.