“How Much Sleep is Optimal?”
For new (and repeat!) parents or clients, this is a very common question!
There is no firm answer; the younger the child, the more likely the amount will vary a little. However, there are general guidelines that you can use to see if your little one falls near the mark of optimal amounts of sleep. Again, every child is quite different (for example: our first needed far less than our second child) so there are other things to watch for as well.
A few signs that your child is not getting enough sleep are:
*Refusing to fall asleep before 10 or 11 PM
Multiple wake-ups in the night (past infancy), where they require outside assistance to get back to sleep.
Sleeping until well past 8 AM and being difficult to wake.
Falling asleep randomly, whenever in the car or stroller.
Crashing at supper time.
General crabbiness, and irritability throughout the day.
Older children will seem very emotional during the day (inflexible and melodramatic about most things).
*Remember; over tiredness manifests itself as energy and hyperactivity, so once the appropriate bedtime window has been missed, children will seem very wide awake. This is often misconstrued as children not being tired, and leads some parents to label their child as “night owls”. In fact, it’s the very opposite.
Here is a general idea of how much sleep babies and children need until primary school:
AGE NIGHT SLEEP DAY SLEEP TOTAL SLEEP
1 Month 8 8 16
3 Months 10 5 (3 naps) 15
6 Months 11 3 – 4 (2 naps) 14 to 15
9 Months 11 3 (2 naps) 14
12 Months 11.5 2.5 (2 naps) 14
1.5 Years 11.5 2 to 2.5 (1 nap) 13.5
2 Years 11 to 12 2 (1 nap) 13 to 14
3 Years 11 to 12 1.5 12.5 to 13.5
4 Years 11 to 12 0 11 to 12
A good rule of thumb is that until children are well into preteen years, 11 to 12 hours of sleep is just right. For most children, that means the perfect bedtime is between 7 and 8 PM. If your 9 year old is up for school at 7 AM, then they need the same bedtime as a 4 or 5 year old. It should not change until well older.
Parents often mistakenly believe that as their primary school-aged children grow, their bedtime should become a little later each year; in fact, it should really stay the same.
Children who do not get enough sleep every night, tend to wake up late and tired, and then in their rush to get to school, do not eat adequately. What that picture ends up looking like, is a child at their desk who is hungry and almost falling asleep. I don’t imagine that child is ready to focus, be attentive, comprehend, compute, and learn. Therefore, a too late bedtime translates to not taking care of the educational foundation your child is at school to gain. And most parents want their children to be at their best at school. In other words, if doing well at school and having a child who is calm, alert, and flexible, is important to you, then so should a reasonable bedtime be.
At around 10 to 13 years old, night time sleep may diminish to 9 to 11 hours and of course, once teenagers, that number seems to go back up again!
and Live Well!