The importance of getting enough sleep cannot be overstated. This stands true for people of all ages. However, for our children, getting the correct amount of sleep aids in both their mental and physical development. As their bodies grow, they require sleep to rejuvenate themselves and restore the energy they require in their developmental process. New born babies are required to sleep for up to 17 hours daily. They have shorter sleep segments but they sleep for a longer amount of time. As our babies grow, their sleep pattern changes. Compared to when they were infants, they sleep for less hours but for longer stretches of time. Children and adults have different sleeping patterns and requirements. Depending on the stage of development they are in, children of various age groups require varying amounts of sleep.
As parents it is important for us to regulate our child’s sleeping pattern. Irregular sleep cycle, lack of sleep and excessive sleep can be detrimental to your child’s overall growing process. Napping during the day or at pre-school may keep your child up till late at night. This will hinder their wake-up time the next morning, leaving them cranky for the rest of the day. Sleep facilitates our digestion process and our gut health. If your infant does not get their required amount of sleep, it will leave them fussy and irritated. Further, consistently failing to get the adequate amount of sleep can signify some form of sleep disorder in your child or other problems. This is when one should consider taking their munchkin to a sleep specialist or family pediatrician and get a professional opinion on the root cause of the child’s disrupted sleep cycle. In the meantime, in this blog let us together look at how much sleep your child needs by age.
1) 0-3 months
In the first few months our babies require the most amount of sleep and this is the phase when they sleep the most. However, it might not feel this way as babies sleep for a shorter stretch of time. They frequently wake up and keep falling back to sleep. This is a normal occurrence during this phase of the baby’s developmental stage as their mind and body learn to equip themselves with the outer world. In addition to aiding their overall growth, the right amount of sleep keeps the baby happy and allows the parents to take care of their child fuss-free and feed them easily. During the first few months after birth, a baby should be well-fed and well-rested. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies require up to 18 hours of sleep. As our babies grow older, they will start developing more predictable sleeping patterns as opposed to the infant phase where they do not have any designated bedtime.
2) 4-12 months
During this phase, babies gradually start consolidating their sleep time. They sleep for a longer stretch of time at night and nap twice or thrice during the day. In totality, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, babies between 4-12 months require 12-16 hours of sleep per 24 hours, including naps. This is when parents can work with their munchkins to draw out a sleep schedule or sleep train them. There are different methods that parents can use to train their babies to sleep at a designated hour or through a designated period of time. One of the most common methods is the cry-out-method. Here, the baby is put to sleep only to be picked up to feed or to check-in on crying after a specific period of time. It teaches the baby to sleep independently.
Another way is to play with them or give them baby-friendly toys to play with until they tire themselves to sleep. When you see that your baby is rubbing incessantly rubbing their eyes or start being fussy, put them down to sleep.
3) 1-5 years
The recommended sleep time for this phase falls between 10-14 hours. This is the phase when our children enter one of the active phases of their lives. An active lifestyle will make them overtired by the end of the day and they may exhibit this through various signs like irritability, hyperactivity and demanding increased emotional attention. Parents should design their bedtime around their active lifestyle. Three years onwards, most children also begin going to school, hence the number of naps they take will reduce and their waking hours increase. The best hack to ensure that your child is getting an adequate amount of sleep is by building a routine. Give them an early dinner and put them to bed early so they are well-rested and prepared for a day filled with learning and activities the following day.
4) 6-12 years
By the time a child reaches the age of 6, they start going to school, requiring them to have a proper routine. Their required sleeping hours come down to 9-12 hours per night as their days start filling with more activities. However, sleep is still important for their overall growth and performance at school. It is important that parents weave their bedtime and wake up time according to their other activities but still be mindful of the fact that they are getting their adequate amount of sleep and are well rested. It is never advised to compromise with your munchkin’s sleep time. If they find it difficult to wake up on time in the morning or feel lethargic during the day, this may mean that they are sleep-deprived. One trick is to find out the time required to get your child ready for school and set their bedtime accordingly, enabling them to have adequate sleep.
5) 13-18 years
Between the ages of 13 and 18, our adolescent children will begin to have their own experiences and will begin to develop a feeling of individuality. Find a sense of agency where they would prefer to make their own choices and not always listen to what their parents want them to do. This is why we need to instill within them the importance of sleep at an early age so that they can guide themselves better later in their life when they want to be on their own. According to AASM, every adolescent child requires 8-10 hours of sleep every night. Sleep deprivation can lead to inattentiveness, trouble communicating and cause trouble in developing their social skills. As parents we are required to ensure that they are getting an adequate amount of sleep every day for their overall progress.
The right amount of sleep will always be critical to your child’s growth across ages. It determines the proper development of both their mind and body. A proper sleep cycle nurtures their immune system, digestive system, gut health, heart and brain health. To guide and help your child better never think twice before approaching a health professional. The right doctor can help you curate the best sleep schedule for your child according to their needs.