How much sleep do kids need? Sometimes it feels like they'll never go to sleep. And then a new phase hits, and it seems like all they do is sleep. (This is mostly babies and teens.)
For sleep-deprived parents, hearing stories of babies sleeping through the night can be frustrating. It's hard not to compare or wonder if you're doing something "wrong." But I'm here to tell you, all kids' sleep patterns are not created equal! While there are kids who conk right out at bedtime, many have trouble falling and staying asleep.
Read on to find out just how much sleep kids actually need, plus some popular suggestions on how to help kids sleep—from bedtime routines to sleep aids and more. Keep in mind that, just like a baby's developmental milestones, there are no magic numbers. But eventually, everyone will catch their ZZZZZZZZs.
It's important to start at the very beginning, just like Julie Andrews says in The Sound of Music. Figure out (roughly) how much sleep your child needs at their age. Then make a schedule and plan for sleep routines and any sleep aids for kids you might want to try.
For more tips on baby milestones and the best (and worst) gear for babies, check out our Baby and Maternity Guide. In it you'll find:
How Much Sleep Do Babies Need?
Basically, babies need a lot of sleep! However, each baby is different and will have his or her own sleep needs. Here are the average ranges, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). These sleep ranges include naps for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers and are recommended amounts of sleep within a 24-hour period.
- Newborn Babies – babies under 4 months typically sleep anywhere from 16-18 hours of accumulated sleep cycles and naps. The AASM doesn't offer guidance for the exact hours of sleep for newborns, as this varies from baby to baby. Newborns typically wake multiple times throughout the night, and depending on feeding schedules, some may sleep more during the night than others.
- Infants (4-12 months) – 12-16 hours of sleep
How Much Sleep Do Kids Need?
- Toddlers (1-2 years old) – 11-14 hours of sleep
- Preschoolers (3-5 years old) – 10-13 hours of sleep
- Elementary to Middle Schoolers (6-12 years old) – 9-12 hours of sleep
How Much Sleep Do Teenagers Need?
- Teens (13-18 years old) – 8-10 hours of sleep
The Cloud B Sleep Sheep makes everyone sleep easy. Photo courtesy of the manufacturer
How To Help Kids Who Have Trouble Sleeping
Adults experience sleepless nights or have difficulty sleeping. Sometimes we feel restless or ate a big meal too close to bedtime. Kids aren't that different. Except that they need help from us to develop tools and routines for sleeping. Annnnnd, kids who don't sleep tend to keep the whole family awake. Here are some ways, based on the age of your kids, to help kids who have trouble sleeping. Remember, sleep isn't linear, and it's normal for kids to need help.
1. Helping Babies Who Have Trouble Sleeping
Bedtime stories are always the best part of going to bed! Photo courtesy of Mommy Poppins
2. Helping Kids Who Have Trouble Sleeping
- Limit screen time before bed
- Create a calm sleeping environment
- Have a bedtime routine (no screens, bath, last playtime, brush teeth, wind down, read stories, lights out, etc.)
- Make sure kids have had exercise and enough physical movement during the day
- If they're still napping, monitor the times of the naps. When kids start to drop naps, sleep schedules will change, so give time for transitioning to a new milestone.
- Have a reading routine where they can pick books or have an ongoing chapter book to look forward to each night
- If your child wakes during the night, attend to their needs and know that it's common for some children to need extra support throughout the night. If you're concerned about frequent awake times, your child is awake for hours on end, or he/she is inconsolable for no clear reason (fever, hungry, etc.), consult with your pediatrician.
Put away the devices. Just before bed is the perfect time to talk to teens. Photo by Cottonbro via Pexels
3. Helping Teens Who Have Trouble Sleeping
- Set limits/rules for screen time before bed. No, really.
- Have a homework schedule and routine to ensure it's not being done too late and affecting sleep
- Exercise and physical movement during the day can help teenagers sleep better
- Make the bedroom a screen-free zone a night, limiting blue light exposure (no tv, no tablet, no phone). This can be really hard. Try putting a basket in the kitchen where everyone—parents included—need to stash screens before bed. It's a great exercise for the whole family.
- Have a clutter-free, calm, clean sleeping environment
- Routines are great for big kids, too; try working on a routine that includes a drink, some breathing exercises or meditation, a backrub, or other soothing activities before bed
Things People Suggest to Help Kids Sleep
Suggestions from other parents who've "been there, done that" can be helpful. Especially when you're feeling alone on the sleep journey. Remember that these things are helpful sleep solutions or tools that have worked for others: They may or may not work for your child, and that's OK. If someone suggests medicine, a remedy, or a supplement, always consult with your child's pediatrician first. This includes common suggestions we have on our list below, such as Magnesium, Melatonin, and even teas.*
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