How Much Sleep Do We Need?

As a culture we seem perpetually concerned about how much sleep we need versus how much we actually get (called our “sleep debt”). And also as a culture, many adults and children seem to function on a chronic sleep debt. Below is a discussion on 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 is to get at least a few quality naps in there where baby is sleeping at least 45 mins 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 or her awake time. Naps will get longer on their own, 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 (if you’re not helping your baby fall asleep with feeding, rocking, patting, pacifiers, swings, stroller, carseat, etc), then baby will begin to drop some night feeds on his or her own when ready. For instance, if your baby is usually falling asleep at 7:30pm, then they might normally feed at 10:30pm, 1:30am, and 4:30am before waking at 7:30am for the day (feeding every 3hrs). If you’ve taught your baby how to fall asleep independently, then they would usually drop the 10:30pm feed first, followed by the 1:30 am and finally the 4:30 am one over time.

If you need help with consolidating sleep, helping baby understand day vs. night, implementing a good sleep foundation called “Sleep Teaching”, getting baby to sleep independently in their own crib, transitioning baby to their own bed or room, etc., then check out my Newborn Sleep Package.

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 transition from 3 to 2 naps is between 5 – 7 months. So, you may have a 6 month old baby who is still taking 3 naps or your 6 month old may 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.

Differences happen not only because of your child’s temperament 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 for each nap is likely going to be napping twice a day with a 3 hour awake time in between.  And a baby who is sleeping 11 hours over night, but waking up 2-4 times each night and taking 45-60 minute naps during the day would likely still be taking 3 naps a day with a 2 hour awake window.

Even though the second scenario may not be what you prefer with night wakings and short naps, it doesn’t mean that this child is not getting enough sleep overall (but the quality of sleep is definitely affected). This child is 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. If you need help with getting baby to drop some night feeds, sleep independently in their crib without any sleep props, create a good bedtime routine, or help with daytime naps, then check out my Babies Sleep Package.

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 transition from 2 naps to 1 nap is between 12 – 18 months old. Your 16 month old may be sleeping 7 p.m. – 7 a.m. and taking two 1 hour naps for a total of 14hours (you would be one lucky mom). Or you may have a newly turned 2 year old who is sleeping 8:00 p.m. to 6:30am with a 1 hour nap each day for a total of 11.5 hours per day. Both would be fine! There are going to be differences in sleep based on your 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!

If you need help with getting your child to sleep independently without any sleep props, getting your child on a good schedule, creating a good bedtime routine and daytime schedule, getting your child/children room sharing, dropping any final night feeds, working on naps, etc then check out either my Babies Sleep Package or Toddlers and Preschoolers Package (depending on your child’s age since Babies Packages go from 4 months to 2 years).

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 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 3 year old child who is currently sleeping 10 hours at night and taking a nap should immediately go to bed earlier the first day that he or she is finished with 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 8:00 p.m. bedtime after the nap has been dropped will not help to make up for the lost sleep as the child will likely still wake up at their normal 6:00 wake time. You would want to move bedtime to 7:00 p.m. the first night and monitor what happens, making adjustments as needed (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).

If you need help with getting your child to sleep independently without any sleep props, getting your child on a good schedule, creating a good bedtime routine, getting your child/children room sharing, getting your child to stay in their room or their bed all night, ending bedtime battles, etc then check out my Toddlers/Preschoolers Package.

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 6 year old, you’re likely going to have a child that’s still sleeping close to 11 hours (or maybe more), whereas a 13 year old may be sleeping just 9 hours per night. Assuming your child is not home schooled, chances are good that they have to wake up early to get to school. You’d want to make sure that your child is getting at least 9 hours by figuring out what time he or she needs to be awake in the morning and having your child in bed 9 hours before that.

If you need help with getting your child to sleep independently without any sleep props (like you laying with them or them coming to you), creating a good bedtime routine, getting your child/children room sharing, getting your child to stay in their room or their bed all night, ending bedtime battles, helping with anxiety, etc., then check out my School Aged Children Package.

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 you have to look 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!

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)!

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 still need 7-9 hours even though you may feel as if you only need 5 hours) 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!

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 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.

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