How Much Sleep Does My Child Need?
This is a question that gets asked a lot. I'm here to tell you: it's probably more than you think!
I created this handy chart so you can see how much sleep your child needs based on their age.
Total Hours of Sleep is the amount of sleep your child need in a 24 hour period. Newborns sleep 15-20 hours in a 24 hour period. That's crazy! But keep in mind, these 15-20 hours are frequently interrupted for feedings.
Total Daytime Sleep is how many hours they nap during the day.
Number of Naps is how many naps they take during the day.
Awake time is the time between when your child wakes (in the morning or from nap) and when they need to sleep again. Notice how newborns should only be up for 30-90 minutes at a time.
Some people will tell you that "maybe your child just doesn't need a lot of sleep." The majority of the time that is false! Even as your child gets older, they still need at least 12 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. Their nap may decrease in length or their bedtime may move back a bit, but always aim for to get your child the recommended amount of sleep for their age.
Common Mistakes That Result in Less Sleep:
Keeping your child up too long
A 5 month old should only be awake 1.5 - 2.5 hours at a time. That means if they wake at 7:00am, they should be ready for a nap at 9:00am. Many parents try to keep their child awake longer with the hope of getting a better nap or overnight sleep. It usually doesn't work that way. If you keep your child awake too long, they will get overtired and have more difficulty falling asleep and have more disruptions in their sleep.
Making bedtime too late
Bedtime for most kids should be between 6:30pm (for infants) and 8:00pm, with the goal of 11-12 hours of sleep each night. Parents commonly think that as their child gets older, bedtime should get later. This is true to some extent, but it doesn't always happen that way. For example, you put your 3 year old to sleep at 9:00pm and they have to wake up at 6:30 to go to daycare. They're only getting 9.5 hours of night sleep. This works if they're getting a 3 hour nap in the afternoon. If not, they're running on a sleep deficit and are going to end up overtired. I know I've tried keeping my child up later with the hope that they will sleep later in the morning - it doesn't work! Instead, I was left with a cranky child who didn't get enough sleep the night before.
Allowing early wake ups
Some kids naturally wake earlier than others, but generally speaking, any wake up before 6:00am should be treated like a night waking. We want children to sleep until 6:00am so they can get 11-12 hours of sleep at night. If they're going to bed at 7:00pm and waking at 4:30am, they're not getting enough sleep. And the whole schedule of the day is thrown off - they're ready for nap at 6:30am when really they should just be getting up for the day. Some circumstances may demand an early waking. For example, if your child has to be out the door at 6:00am for daycare, they may need to wake up at 5:30am. If that's the case, they should have an early bedtime (6:30pm) to allow enough overnight sleep.
Letting naps get too long
Naps are what get me through the day and I hate waking my child up from a good nap, but sometimes is necessary. If your 4 year old is taking a 3 hour nap every afternoon, you can expect nighttime sleep to be 9-10 hours. If they're taking a 1.5 hour nap, you can expect nighttime sleep to be 11-12 hours. What do you value more - nighttime sleep or naps? It's up to you and your family to decide what works. Keep in mind if your child is having trouble falling asleep at night or is waking early, you may have to adjust the length of their nap.
Still can't get your child to sleep as much as they're supposed to? Contact me for a free consultation to see how I can help!