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How Much Sleep Does My Child Need?

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In a recent interview we asked Susan Crane, PsyD, Licensed Psychologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado Sleep Center, some questions about the sleep needs of kids at different ages. Here’s what she had to say about everything from hours of zzz’s to nightmares.

How much sleep does my child need?

As children grow, their sleep needs change. Regardless of your child’s age, consider the right amount of shut-eye in terms of total hours during a 24-hour period with these guidelines:

• Infants from birth through 2 months: 11 to 18 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period
• Infants 2 to 12 months: 11 to 17 total hours of sleep, at least nine of which should be at night, with two to five hours spent napping
• Toddlers up to 3 years old: at least 12 total hours
• Preschoolers: 11 to 13 hours, including one daily nap
• Elementary school-age children: around 10 hours (napping generally ceases)
• Teenagers: about nine hours each night

How can I get my little one to sleep in her own bed?

For younger children, one of the most common problems is learning how to fall asleep independently and go back to sleep at night after waking up. To assist in sleep independence, parents need to let their children grow accustomed to being alone in their beds.

What if my child is waking up after nightmares?

Night terrors — a developmental occurrence characterized by outward signs of fright that don’t actually signify bad dreams — and nightmares are common until approximately age 8. Night terrors require no response from parents, except for keeping children safe if they significantly shift positions in their beds. Comfort your child when he or she wakes too early by gently whispering, “It’s time to sleep,” but keep interaction to a minimum to allow your child’s body to fall back asleep.

What about my teenager – should I worry that he’s nocturnal?

For teens, delayed sleep phase syndrome — a chronic disorder that delays falling asleep until early morning — can be a common issue, so teens need to train their bodies to tire at night. To assist in this, sleep professionals use bright light therapy and melatonin adjustment therapy to match circadian rhythms with school-year schedules. Learn more about the Sleep Center at Children’s Colorado.

How can I help create good sleep habits at home?

With proper sleep, children develop more quickly, focus more readily and behave more appropriately. Help your child get the sleep they need with these tips:
• Keep bedrooms cool, dark and TV-free.
• Maintain a regular bedtime routine that includes brushing teeth, changing clothes and relaxing.
• Wake your children at approximately the same time each day, even on weekends.
• Help your child maintain a healthy weight, as obesity can exacerbate sleep disorders.

For more information about sleep, visit the Children’s Hospital Colorado website.

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