Your little one is learning so much in the first few years of life! With all of the new information your child is absorbing, healthy sleep is imperative. It’s an important foundation of your child’s physical and cognitive development.
Knowing how much sleep your child should be getting is only the beginning. In addition, it’s important to instill healthy sleep habits. Having a toolbox of healthy sleep tips and habits will minimize the impact that developmental milestones and other life changes can have on children’s sleep.
How Much Sleep Do Children Need?
Sleep needs will vary by age. While every child is different, here are some general guidelines to follow according to the National Sleep Foundation. You can also consult your child’s pediatrician with any questions regarding how much sleep your child should be getting. He or she can also provide information on signs of sleep deprivation.
- Infants: Infants will typically sleep anywhere from 14-17 hours in a day. The recommended number of hours decreases as infants get older.
- Toddlers: Toddlers generally need around 14 hours of sleep each day.
- Preschoolers: Preschoolers should get about 12 hours per day.
- School-age children: Children between ages 6 and 12 should get 10 to 11 hours each day.
Recommended nap duration will vary as well based on your child’s age. We encourage daily nap time while our students are at U-GRO for all children up to age 4, as it helps with cognition, emotional development, and more. Even if your child is refusing nap time, quiet time is still beneficial.
Common Sleep Challenges
While it’s ideal for children to get the recommended amount of sleep each night, sleep challenges are a normal part of child development. As children reach new developmental milestones, it’s common for sleep challenges to occur. For example, as infants’ social interaction increases, so does their need for stimulation. This can lead to more frequent wakeups throughout the night. Toddlers often experience overtiredness, which can lead to them waking up very early. Toddlers and preschoolers may develop nighttime fears and nightmares. It’s also common for them to resist going to sleep because they want to spend more time with Mom and Dad.
Even Daylight Savings Time can impact children’s sleep, impacting their circadian rhythm. This impact can last for a few weeks. If you can, gradually shift your child’s bedtime and wake up time forward or backward to account for the time change.
One of the best ways to minimize sleep challenges associated with Daylight Savings Time and other changes is to maintain healthy sleep habits throughout the year. Keep reading for healthy sleep habits everyone in your family can practice.
Encourage Healthy Sleep Habits in Children
Parents and caregivers can utilize these tips to build and support healthy sleep habits in their children. Healthy sleep habits improve sleep quality and duration, and may even help children self-soothe at bedtime.
The sooner you develop healthy sleep habits, the better. It’s much easier to instill good habits than it is to correct bad ones.
- Sleep schedule: Have a regular schedule, even on the weekends. Bedtime and wake time should be about the same time every day. This sets the stage for the day.
- Routine: Establish a consistent bedtime routine that is calming. Make tasks like picking out pajamas and brushing teeth a fun part of getting ready for bed. Reading together as a family each night is a great way to unwind and signal that bedtime is near. Electronics should not be a part of a bedtime routine. Try to limit your routine to the same time each night. This will help children develop expectations about when it’s time to go to sleep.
- Comfortable room: Make sure your child’s bedroom is conducive to sleep. Make sure the temperature in the room is cool and comfortable. It should be quiet. The room should be dark, but a nightlight can be comforting.
- A positive space: Avoid using the bedroom as a timeout. Make the bedroom a comforting place for quiet time and sleeping. Make sure his or her bedroom is a place your child associates with positive feelings.
- Overtiredness: Recognize when your child is tired and needs an afternoon nap or needs to go to bed a little earlier. Falling asleep can be more difficult when your child is overly tired. Try to begin the bedtime routine at the first signs of drowsiness, rather than waiting until your child is exhausted.
Just like you advocate for your child’s safety and wellbeing, you also need to be an advocate for his or her sleep. Inform teachers of family events or milestones that may impact your child’s sleep. Ask family members and other caretakers to follow these guidelines to ensure your child has consistency in his or her sleep routine.
Looking for more tips to help your child get the best possible start in his or her life? Follow our blog for more ways to encourage healthy development across many domains!