Recommended total hours of sleep and ways to improve your child’s sleep

Woman kissing her sleeping child

Sleep is important for restoring energy, and for growth and development of a child. It is not just the amount of sleep that is important, but also the quality of that sleep.

There is increasing evidence that not enough, or poor quality, sleep can negatively affect children’s behavior, learning, health, wellbeing, and weight.

How much sleep your child needs in 24 hours


The table below shows the recommended total hours of sleep (including naps) per day for children from birth to 5 years. Some children naturally sleep slightly less or more than the recommended time so these hours are shown in the ‘may be appropriate’ columns.


AgeMay be appropriate (hours)Recommended (hours)May be appropriate (hours)
Newborn (0-3 months)11-1314-1718-19
Infant (4-11 months)10-1112-1516-18
Toddler (1-2 years)9-1011-1415-16
Preschool (3-4 years)8-910-1314
5-year-olds7-89-1112

Below are some tips to help to improve your child's sleep.


Bedtime routine


Have a regular bedtime routine for your children. This might include a bath, brushing their teeth, a story then bed. Quiet activities are good before bed. Avoid active games, playing outside, and screen use (eg TV, internet, computer games) in the hour before bedtime.


Have a regular bedtime and wake-up time. It helps your child to understand when it is time to sleep.

Sleeping environment


Have a comfortable sleep environment. The place where they sleep should be quiet, warm and dark (though a night light is okay). Have no distractions in the place where children sleep, including TV, computer screens, and portable devices.

Food


A meal within 1 to 2 hours of going to sleep is not recommended. However, a light snack may help some children. Avoid giving your child food and drinks containing caffeine as it can affect their sleep.


Keeping active


It is important for children to be active throughout the day. Activity can also help your child to sleep. Time spent in bright sunlight such as being active outside can also help children to sleep, but don’t forget to be sun smart! Avoid lots of activity in the hour before bedtime.


Things that might affect your child’s sleep


It is normal for young children to have naps during the day. As they get older they will need less sleep and fewer naps. If your child has a nap after 4 pm (except for newborns and infants) it may be harder for them to get to sleep at night.

Being unwell can also affect your child’s sleep. If your child snores a lot, or stops breathing for short periods while asleep, discuss this with your GP.

Source: sleephealthfoundation.org.
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