How much sleep does my child really need?
Guest Post | Whitney Roban, Ph.D.
When parents ask me how much sleep their child needs, my answer continually surprises – it’s always much more than they expected. As a mom, I understand the place of surprise they are coming from. I remember when my first child was a newborn, it seemed as though he was always sleeping. As soon as my son would wake up, my parents would tease me and ask if it was time for me to put him down to sleep again. Joking aside it did feel as though he was always being put down to sleep, sleeping, or just waking up. The reason it turns out? Newborns need to sleep, a lot!
Of course, the required amount of sleep dwindles as your baby grows, but as a first time mom you’re not exactly sure what to expect and the guessing game can be exhausting. That’s why I’ve put together a sort of sleep roadmap to help guide you through what to expect from your little one’s sleep patterns as he or she grows…
Newborn – 6 weeks
In a 24 hour day, newborns need to sleep approximately 16-18 hours. One difficult aspect of newborn sleep is that they experience day/night confusion, meaning the longest stretch of sleep is during the day, not the night. Not to worry, day/night confusion typically ends around 6 weeks of age and going forward the baby will sleep approximately 14-15 hours with the longest stretch of sleep at night. Naps during the day at this stage are often brief and inconsistent.
At this age little ones sleep for approximately 11-12 hours during the night and are able to sleep for longer and more consistent stretches of time during the day – typically 3 one hour naps, for a total of 3 hours of day time sleep.
The night time sleep requirements remain the same as 4-5 month olds (11-12 hours), however at this stage babies can transition from 3 to 2 naps per day. Although the total amount of day sleep remains at 3 hours, each of the 2 naps increases to 1 1/2 hours of length.
The next nap transition occurs, on average, at 18 months of age. When children complete this nap transition from 2 to 1 nap per day, the day sleep remains at approximately 3 hours in total. When children turn 2 years old, their day nap decreases to 2 hours in length. However, they are still sleeping 11-12 hours at night.
During the child’s 3rd year of life, most children still need a daily nap which lasts approximately 1 hour. As in earlier years, 3 year olds still need 11-12 hours of night sleep. By age 4 many children have given up napping. By age 5 most children have given up napping. However, night sleep remains at 11-12 hours during these years. At age 6 through 12 years of age, the total amount of required night sleep decreases to 10-11 hours. Teenagers, notorious for poor sleep, are required to receive approximately 9-10 hours of night sleep.
Sleep is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.
All humans don’t just want to sleep, we need to sleep. Unhealthy sleep leads to problems in all areas of life, including our physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral lives. Healthy sleep, however, supports healthy living. Having children avoid becoming overtired and sleep deprived is critical. In order to do this, parents must understand the sleep requirements at every age. Armed with that knowledge, along with consistency, commitment, confidence and a lot of patience, you will be well on your way to raising a great sleeper!
PEDIATRIC SLEEP SPECIALIST |PARENT & CORPORATE WELLNESS EDUCATOR
Founder of SLEEP-EEZ KIDZ and SLEEP WELL/WORK WELL, Dr. Whitney Roban considers sleep a necessity, not a luxury. She lives and works by one philosophy: parenting is one of the hardest jobs, made even more difficult when a family doesn’t sleep. Her mission is to give the gift of sleep to families through her information dissemination and emotional support based sleep training system, as well as her parent and corporate wellness education workshops.
With a Ph.D. in Clinical and School Psychology from Hofstra University, Whitney began her career creating psycho-educational books and games for Childswork/Childsplay. She then took her expertise to the Girl Scout Research Institute where she authored national research studies in the youth market and reported the results in various media outlets such as television and radio. After taking time off from her professional life to be a mom, during which time she sleep trained her own children, Whitney formed SLEEP-EEZ KIDZ and SLEEP WELL/WORK WELL and has helped hundreds of children and their parents sleep soundly every night.
A native of New York, Whitney formed SLEEP-EEZ KIDZ in 2005 while living in Los Angeles. She currently lives in New York with her two children, ages 10 1/2 and 13. Dr. Roban is now devoting her time away from her two very well rested sons to help other parents and caregivers struggling with childhood sleep problems.