As a culture we seem to always be concerned about how much sleep we need versus how much sleep we’re actually getting (called your “sleep debt”). We worry about ourselves, and we worry about our kids. It’s exhausting! Sometimes we’re right to worry, and sometimes we shouldn’t. Let’s talk about the amount of sleep needed for each age group (including adults) as listed by the National Sleep Foundation:
Newborns (0-3 months):
Babies in this age group sleep an average of 14-17 hours per 24 hour period. Sleep in the first three months (aka “the 4th trimester) can all seem to melt together. Babies are basically on a sleep and feed schedule straight through the 24hr day without little variation to indicate daytime sleep vs nighttime sleep. Depending on your child’s age in this group, they may be taking anywhere between 3-6 naps or more! Many of the naps may be short cat naps, though the hope would be to get at least a few quality naps in there where baby is sleeping at least 45mins long. Instead of wondering when baby will drop a nap (like I mention in the all the rest of the categories), think of how baby is extending his/her awake time. Naps will get longer on their own, thus dropping some unneeded small ones, and baby will be awake longer in between naps.
Nights will start to get better too with baby taking a longer sleep stretch the first part of the night. If there are no sleep associations in place (ie you’re not helping your baby fall asleep with feeding, rocking, patting, pacifiers, swings, stroller, carseat, etc), then baby should drop the night feeds on his/her own when ready. For instance, if your baby is usually falling sleep at 8pm, then they might normally feed at 11pm, 2am, and 5am before waking at 8am for the day (ie feeding every 3hrs). If you’ve taught your baby how to fall asleep independently, then they would ideally drop the 11pm feed first, followed by the 2am and finally the 5am one over time.
Babies (4-11 months):
Babies in this age group sleep an average of 12-15 hours per 24 hour period. This includes both sleep at night and for all naps combined. Depending on your child’s age in this group, they may be taking anywhere between 1-3 naps. The average age to drop from 3 to 2 naps is between 5 – 7 months. This means that you may have a 6 month baby who is still taking 3 naps or might be down to 2 already. It’s important to realize that both are fine! You can’t compare your child’s sleep needs to any other child’s (not even if they have a twin).
Differences happen not only because of temperaments but also because of how well your child sleeps for overnight and for all their naps. A baby who is sleeping 12 hours straight at night and napping for 1.5 hours each nap is likely going to be napping twice a day with a 3 hour awake time in between. Whereas, a baby who is only sleeping 11 hours over night, waking up 2-4 times each night and taking 45-60 mins during the day is likely to be still taking 3 naps a day with a 2 hour awake window. Even though the second scenario may not be what you prefer with the night wakings and short naps, it doesn’t mean that your child is not getting enough rest overall (though the quality of sleep is affected). They are making up some of their sleep deficit by taking that third nap each day, which is good news. Should you decide to work on helping your child work on independent sleeping, then you would likely see them drop the 3rd nap by the 5th or 6th month.
Remember, most healthy, average weight babies can sleep straight through the night without night feeds by 6 months old.
Toddlers (1-2 years old):
Children in this age group should be sleeping 11-14 hours in a 24 hour period and are often taking anywhere between 0-2 naps per day. The average age for children to drop from 2 naps to 1 nap is between 12 – 18 months old. Your 16 month old may be sleeping 7pm – 7am and taking two 1hr naps for a total of 14hrs (that would be one lucky mom). Or you may have a newly turned 2 year old that is sleeping 8pm to 6:30am with a 1 hour nap each day for a total of 11.5hrs per day. Both would be fine! There are going to be differences in sleep based on the child’s age, personality, and individual sleep needs. This isn’t a cause for concern, it’s just how it is. Try not to compare your child’s sleep to their siblings, cousins, or friends. You will just go crazy trying to understand why your child doesn’t sleep as much as the next child!
Preschoolers (3-5 years old):
Children in this age group should be sleeping 10-13 hours in a 24 hour period and are often taking either 1 nap or no naps per day. The average age for children to drop the last remaining nap is between 2.5 and 3.5 years old. Chances are that if you have a child who is still napping, then you might be looking at a 10hr night and a 1-2hr nap during the day, versus a child who is done napping. If your child no longer naps, then you’re likely looking at an 11-12hr night. Be aware that your 3yo child that’s currently sleeping 10hrs at night and taking a nap should immediately go to bed earlier the first day that they’re done with their naps (or on a day that the nap was skipped). As soon as naps are over, you should look to move your child’s bedtime earlier to ensure your child gets enough sleep. Most children will not shift their morning wake up time, but they will go to sleep earlier without their nap.
So let’s say your child sleeps 8pm-6am and still naps. Keeping the 8pm bedtime after the nap has been dropped will not help to make up for the lost nap sleep as the child will likely still wake up at their normal 6am wake time. Instead you would want to move bedtime to 7pm that first night and monitor what happens making adjustments as needed (ie see how long it takes child to fall asleep, how easily they go to bed, how the night was, what the wake up time was, etc).
School Aged (6-13 years old):
Children in this age group should be sleeping 9-11 hours in a 24 hour period and are not usually taking any more naps during the day. If you have a 6yo you’re likely going to have a child that’s still sleeping close to 11hrs (and maybe more), whereas a 13yo may be looking at just 9hrs a night. Assuming your child is not home schooled, then chances are good that they have to wake up early to get to school. In this case you want to make sure that your child is getting at least 9hrs by figuring out what time he/she needs to be awake in the morning and having your child to bed 9hrs before that.
For instance, your middle school child may need to wake up at 6am for school, which means that their bedtime should be at least 9pm or earlier if possible. If your child is not getting enough sleep, you might notice that they’re falling asleep after school or really difficult to wake in the morning. If bedtime can not be earlier because of homework or activities, then I would suggest letting them nap. Be careful though because a late afternoon nap can lead to them not being able to fall asleep at bedtime. If that’s happening, then don’t allow the naps and shoot for an earlier bedtime.
Teens (14-17 years old):
Children in this age group should be sleeping 8-10 hours in a 24 hour period and should not be commonly napping throughout the week. The few years difference in this age group doesn’t make too much of a difference in sleep needs, but instead you’re looking at individual sleep needs. For instance, one teen may need 9hrs of sleep to feel good, their friend might only need 8hrs, and then on the weekend both teens might sleep 10-11hrs! It’s a matter of the teen’s temperament, personality, and individual sleep needs.
If your teen needs to get up at 5:30am for school, then they should be going to bed by 9:30pm to get at least get 8hrs. Your teen may complain every night at 9pm as they’re getting ready for bed, but they will thank you in the morning when they feel well-rested! And if you’re thinking (or your teen is telling you) that this can’t be done, it can! My 16yo daughter does this every night, and she is an honor student, has a part-time job, and is on the varsity cheerleading squad for her high school.
If you’re concerned about the possibility of your teen getting insufficient sleep, the first thing you need to do is to pay attention to how they’re acting. For example, if your 15yo daughter is only getting 7.5hrs of sleep each night but she is getting up easily in the morning, not tired in the afternoon, and easily going to bed at night, then chances are that she is ok with only getting 7.5hrs. Now let’s say that your 15yo has a twin brother that also gets 7.5hrs of sleep each night but he is hard to wake in the morning, crashing on the couch after school, and then getting to bed too late, then chances are that he needs more than 7.5hrs. Again, each child is different so you need to look at each individually (even twins)!
When it comes to teens their scheduling, bedroom environment, bedtime and daily routine are often to blame for most of their sleep issues.
Adults (18-64 years old):
Adults in this age group should be sleeping 7-9 hours in a 24 hour period (for those interested, if you’re over 65 years old you need 7-9hrs) and should not be commonly napping throughout the week. Sleep is not just for our children! If mom and dad are sleep deprived, then believe me the family is affected. Personally, I know how different I feel with 7hrs sleep vs 9hrs sleep!
When it comes to adult sleep, you need to look at a person’s entire lifestyle to understand what’s happening with their sleep. If you’re not sleeping well because of your kids, then you should definitely work on that, whether it be with my help or on your own. Helping them helps you too!
Bottom line is this…all humans need an adequate amount of sleep each night to make them able to effectively learn, communicate, and be a productive person each day. Sleep deprivation is not a joke! It can affect most areas of our lives: cognitive, behavioral, learning, safety, physical, mood, anxiety/depression, gross and fine motor skills, education. I know it can feel like a never-ending battle and extremely time consuming to deal with your child’s (or children’s) sleep issues, but believe me it will be well worth it in the end. Having well-rested children AND parents makes for a much better family dynamic with more attentive and engaged parents, parents who tend to argue less, and children who are happier and more independent. So this summer make sleep a priority for your family!
Ronee offers a number of services to help with sleep including: Newborns, Infants, Toddlers, School age children, Teens, and even adults. See her list of services at – Here