How much sleep do kids need and what time should they go to bed — these are two questions parents often ask themselves. With children’s lives getting busier at younger ages, it’s important to set consistent bedtime routines and to establish a time to turn off the lights for the night. While no two children are the same, there are some general guidelines recommended for children during different stages of childhood.
Newborn to 12 Months
Newborns and infants up to 12 months old need about 15 to 18 hours of sleep per day. Unfortunately for most bleary-eyed parents, these hours often come in spurts of two or three hours the first four months of the baby’s life. According to KidsHealth, since newborn babies don’t know the difference between night and day and their small stomachs don’t stay full for very long, sleeping in short stretches is common. In their first year of life, babies take up to three naps a day. If your baby’s last nap ends early in the afternoon, an ideal bedtime might be around 6 p.m. If he naps until 4 p.m., bedtime might not be until 8 p.m. While it’s important to try and begin establishing a bedtime routine, realize that a little flexibility about the time is still an important part of the process during this first year.
1 to 3 Years of Age
Toddlers up to 3 years of age need about 12 to 14 hours of sleep each day, often including one or two naps. Many children drop one or both naps, which means they generally sleep longer at night. The recommended bedtime for a child this age is between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Earlier bedtimes work best for children who do not nap during the day or who don’t have to wake early in the morning to travel to daycare.
4 to 6 Years of Age
Preschoolers and kids up to 6 years of age generally need between 10 and 12 hours of sleep a day. Most preschoolers drop their naps between ages 3 and 4, while some still take one nap of one to two hours a day. The recommended bedtime for children between these years is between 7 and 9 p.m. If your child does not have to get up early for preschool, or still naps during the day, the later bedtime might be appropriate — as long as he is getting the requisite number of total recommended hours.
7 to 12 Years of Age
Children of school age should get about 10 or 11 hours of sleep per night — although with the increasing demands of extracurricular activities and homework demands, kids this age often get on average of nine hours. Continue a bedtime routine that is relaxing and as consistent as possible, ranging any time between 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.
With social, school, sports and other extracurricular activities peaking during these years, it’s no wonder teenagers get less sleep than they need, which is about 10 hours a night. However, according to the National Sleep Foundation, one study on adolescent sleep habits reported only 15 percent slept as many as 8 ½ hours during the school week. The National Sleep Foundation also conducted a poll of more than 1,600 teens that showed a correlation between lack of sleep and depressive tendencies. It’s not uncommon to let your older teenager have a bit of flexibility when it comes to setting a bedtime schedule, as long as she’s not skimping during the week only to try and “catch up” on the weekends. Have her aim to get eight hours of sleep a night most nights, if possible.