Home parenting How long should my child sleep?

How long should my child sleep?

by Ines Wurbs

How long should my child sleep? How much sleep is normal, too much or too little? You will find these questions and how you can improve your child’s sleep behavior in this article.

How much sleep o kids need by age?

The information about the recommended sleep duration for our children is helpful. However, information on the internet is missing details about sleep duration. Average sleep times are often given. Since the length of sleep varies from person to person, an average value is only of limited help.

Specifying a range is better here. On some pages, I found the recommended sleeping range, but one important piece of information is missing here: the normal range. This range describes the sleep duration, which is not in the recommended range, but can still be regarded as normal or does not have to be alarming. 

Only with this information can parents react specifically when their children’s sleep behavior is outside the normal range. In this case, the first step should be to contact the pediatrician to find out whether there is a problem or whether it is a phase in the child’s development.

Recommended sleep duration by age

The US National Sleep Foundation published a new recommendation in 2015, which sleep duration is recommended depending on the age of the children. In the list below, you will find an overview of how much sleep we need at each age and per day. In addition, you will find information about how much sleep is still within the normal range.

AgeRecommended durationNormal range
0 – 3 months14 – 17 hours11 – 19 hours
4 – 12 months12 – 15 hours10 – 18 hours
1 – 2 years11 – 14 hours9 – 16 hours
3 – 5 years10 – 13 hours8 – 14 hours
6 – 13 years9 – 11 hours7 – 12 hours
14 – 17 years8 – 10 hours7 – 11 hours
18 – 25 years7 – 9 hours6 – 11 hours
26 – 64 years7 – 9 hours6 – 10 hours
65+ years7 – 8 hours5 – 9 hours
child sleep chart by age

In this table, you will find the recommended amount of sleep and the normal range by age

The recommended range varies by country and organization. The WHO recommendation, for example, largely corresponds to the list above. Only the value of the babies is given in the range of 12 – 16 hours. The recommended range is thus one hour longer than the list but is still within the specified normal range.

This list shows how much sleep is recommended for us and our children. In addition, we find the normal range. If our children’s sleep times (or our own) fall outside these values, we should seek professional help. With our children, the first point of contact is of course the pediatrician.

Where do these recommendations come from?

As already mentioned, there are a wide variety of organizations that research sleep behavior and its health effects. The list given here was developed by a panel of 18 experts from different fields of science and medicine. Hundreds of research studies on sleep duration and related health factors were compared. The recommendations were then developed from this.

As I said, there are numerous national and global recommendations. In addition to the ones already mentioned, you will find two other recommendations from the mayo clinic and sleep foundation below:

How many hours of sleep is enough? Mayo Clinic

How much sleep do we really need? Sleep foundation

Does my child need a nap?

Whether your child needs a nap is usually an answer for themselves. Up to the age of, a nap is still the norm. But there are also phases in which the children don’t need a nap. Care must be taken to ensure that the framework conditions are right. If you notice that your child is tired and needs sleep, you should create a quiet environment so that your child can fall asleep undisturbed.

With more than one child, this is not always easy. The older children simply have to work a little with this. They should try to be as quiet as possible when their sibling is sleeping in the same room. Alternatively, they can take a nap in their own bed. Of course, this takes practice, but once it becomes a habit, it works wonderfully.

What amount of sleep is best for kids?

The question of bedtime is, of course, based on the time when you get up. With us, for example, it’s quite simple. We live close to the local church and our kids have gotten into the habit to get up at 7 a.m. when the bell is ringing. For this reason, our bedtime is set at 7:00 p.m. Occasionally, even 6:30 p.m.

The bedtime for your child depends on their age and wake-up time. This bedtime should also be kept constant so that the children can get used to this routine. A variation of the bedtime cannot be recommended, since the children then cannot get used to the sleep rhythm.

I’m certain, you know the situation when the children were allowed to stay awake a little longer on a special day. If that is so, it always takes a few days before the normal sleeping rhythm is reached again. So, bedtime should be based on the time they get up and remain constant

To determine the amount of time your child actually needs to sleep, it is advisable to note the exact time from going to sleep to waking up independently and undisturbed. Preferably several times. The duration will probably not vary very much across all observations. If there is an outlier in the duration of observation, it can be safely ignored or disregarded.

8 tips to make your kid sleep better

With a few tips, you can make it easier for your children to go to bed. It is often simple framework conditions that promote falling asleep. Below are a few tips on how to do this more easily. 

Tip 1: Pacifiers to help babies fall asleep

A pacifier can be used to soothe babies. The pacifier can be used here when going to bed. Please note that the pacifier should not be forced on. It should also not be put back in the mouth if it falls out. You can find more detailed information on the use of pacifiers in this article

Tip 2: Sleep aids and white noise

You can also offer your child a reference object. So, either a cuddly blanket, a stuffed animal, or whatever it likes. Children often look for such a reference object themselves. It gives them security and helps them to self-soothe.

But sleep aids that make noises, play lullabies, or project light can also be useful. They focus your child’s attention and the soothing tones and regularity slow down brain activity and falling asleep takes its course.

There are also sleeping aids that emit white noise, a heart rhythm, or something similar, in the form of stuffed animals. These also have a calming effect and at the same time offer a chance to cuddle.

Tip 3: Children can also sleep alone

From the 3rd month, falling asleep can be practiced without the parents being present. From the 6th month at the latest, the children can fall asleep on their own. Even if it is hard to let the little ones sleep alone, this is valuable for their development and for their independence.

It has been found that infants who are breastfeeding or bottle feeding seek eye contact with their mother. But when they get tired and want to go to sleep, the children look away from their mother. They distance themselves a little from their mother to be able to fall asleep.

Often children are constantly overstimulated and then do not manage to fall asleep on their own. As a result, the children only fall asleep when they are carried, sung to, or otherwise actively put into a trance.

So, you can trust your child to fall asleep on their own. Of course, this has to be practiced. What you shouldn’t do is let the children cry if they don’t fall asleep and start crying right away.

Tip 4: Children should only use the bed for sleeping

Your children’s bed should be a sign that they are now sleeping. Under no circumstances should you fool around, watch TV or play games in bed. If the bed is only used as a place to sleep, this also triggers the associated behavior. The reverse is of course the same. If there is regular play in bed, the children will want to play in bed when it is time for bed.

Tip 5: The bed should only serve as a place of retreat

Our bed should be there as a retreat for relaxation. It should offer us security and the ambient temperature should be pleasant (around 18 °C is recommended here). The sense of security is an important aspect because when we feel unwell, our bodies and minds are on high alert. Every little noise is registered and can be classified as a threat.

Tip 6: Going to sleep should not be used as a punishment

The child should not have to go to bed or sleep as a punishment. When this happens, your child associates the bed with a place of punishment rather than a place to sleep. Thus, the sense of security is damaged and can cause falling asleep and sleeping problems.

Tip 7: Sleep rituals promote falling asleep

Sleep rituals are very helpful and important to give the children time to reach their sleeping quota. A sleep ritual defines a routine of how the time before bed is used.

This process should always be the same. And it can and should include, for example, brushing the teeth, washing, and getting dressed for bed. This allows your child to get used to the situation. This allows your daughter or son to calm down and develop a sense of security. This makes it easier for the children to fall asleep.

Evening rituals should include lullabies and good night stories. These help to calm and shut down the mind. Especially lullabies help. For example, if you always sing the same song while falling asleep, it acts like a mantra and the children calm down.

But don’t overdo it with the sleep rituals. 30 minutes is enough. Longer rituals are only sluggish for you and your child, and can also have the opposite effect.

Tip 8: sleep in adolescents

Young people should also make sure that they get enough sleep. However, helping adolescents get enough sleep is far more difficult. Rituals and a bed that is only used for sleeping also help with them.

In the age of mobile communication, however, parents have little opportunity to control or limit this. That’s why we have to try to make arrangements to ensure that they get enough sleep.

These points could include the following:

  • Agreeing on a sleep ritual that the teenagers carry out independently. The same applies here: a maximum of 30 minutes is enough.
  • Don’t play games, watch TV or write messages in bed.
  • As far as it is in your power, you can set a regular daily routine with fixed meal times. This has a positive effect on the sleep-wake cycle.

Conclusion about sleep

Getting enough sleep is especially important for children. Their development and health depend on getting enough sleep. As parents, we have to ensure the right framework conditions so that our children can achieve this sleep quota.

When children start to become impatient, inattentive, or fussy, it can be caused by not getting enough sleep. Here it is advisable to log the children’s bedtime and compare it with the recommended bedtime. If the bedtime is too short, you should consider adjusting it to the waking time and implementing a few of the tips.

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