How much sleep does your child need?

As a new parent, that’s probably one of your biggest questions. Below are some general guidelines as to how many hours of sleep the average child requires at various ages. Of course, every child is different — some need up to two hours more or less sleep than others.

Age Nighttime Sleep Daytime Sleep * Total Sleep
1 month 8 8 (inconsistent) 16
3 months 10 5 (3) 15
6 months 11 3 1/4 (2) 14 1/4
9 months 11 3 (2) 14
12 months 11 1/4 2 1/2 (2) 13 3/4
18 months 11 1/4 2 1/4 (1) 13 1/2
2 years 11 2 (1) 13
3 years 10 1/2 1 1/2 (1) 12
*Note: number of naps in parentheses

Keep in mind that most children need lots of sleep. Often, says sleep expert Jodi Mindell, author of Sleeping Through the Night, if a child has poor sleep habits or refuses to go to bed before 11 at night, his parents will think that he just doesn’t need a lot of sleep. That’s probably not true — in fact, it’s likely that such a child is actually sleep-deprived. To see whether your child falls into that camp, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your child fall asleep almost every time he’s in a car?
  • Do you have to wake your child almost every morning?
  • Does your child seem cranky, irritable, or overtired during the day?
  • On some nights, does your child seem to crash much earlier than his usual bedtime?

If you answered “yes” to any of these, your child may be getting less sleep than he needs. To change this pattern, you’ll need to help him develop good sleep habits and set an appropriate bedtime. “Then he’ll get all the sleep he needs to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” Mindell says.

For more information on helping your baby sleep well, see the basics for birth to 3 months, 3 to 6 months, 6 to 9 months, and 9 to 12 months. You can also find out all about baby sleep and feeding schedules and encouraging your newborn’s emerging routine.

Eventually your child will stop napping and start doing all of his sleeping at night. Preschoolers and young elementary school students still need up to ten or 11 hours of sleep a night, but that amount will gradually diminish. By the time he’s a teenager, your child will need only about nine or ten hours of shut-eye per night.

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