How much sleep do children and babies need?

You spend ages rocking them to sleep, singing nursery rhymes, reading books and shushing them until they fall into the deepest slumber. Time to put your feet up? Think again.

The peace and quiet doesn’t always last long as your child may wake up sporadically throughout the night. You may feel frustrated, not only because your own sleep is being disturbed, but you may also worry about whether your child is getting the right amount of sleep that they need.

If you are wondering how much sleep do newborns and children need; fret no more. Read on to find out all you need to know about the recommended amounts of sleep needed for children of all ages and the effects of sleep deprivation on them.

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Why do kids sleep more?

Most adults know that that sleep is vital for children. But many don’t know how much sleep kids actually need.

Newborns, toddlers and children require much more sleep than adults – it’s essential for their development, particularly the central nervous system.

Sleep also affects a child’s immune system, moods, behaviour and ability to interact, so it is important that they get the right amount.

How much sleep do children need?

Children will need varying amounts of sleep as they grow older. Newborns require equal amounts of sleep in the day as they do at night.

Consult the below table to discover the recommended amount of sleep for your child, dependant on their age:

Child’s age Required sleep (Day time) Required sleep (Night time)
Newborns 8 hours 8.5 hours
6 months 3 hours 11 hours
1 year 2.5 hours 11.5 hours
2-3 years 45 minutes – 1.5 hours 11.5 hours
4-5 years 11 – 11.5 hours
6+ years Reduce 15 minutes with each year. E.g. age 7 = 10.5 hours

What are the effects of sleep deprivation in children?

There are many consequences resulting from lack of sleep in babies and young children, which could have a negative impact on their health.

Unlike adults who get sleepier and sleepier until they just drop off, babies and children tend to become more wound up and hyperactive the more tired they become – all a sign that they to visit the land of nod.

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Hyperactivity

This can often be mistaken for ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), as children tend to become more hyperactive and upset, when they are getting exhausted.

Symptoms of ADHD can be spotted from an early age but most children are not diagnosed until they are six years old. It’s easy to see why some parents can mistake the signs of tiredness and hyperactivity for this condition.

Obesity

Children who don’t sleep enough are more prone to becoming overweight as they often crave sugary or starchy foods during the day which provide more energy, resulting in more hours awake.

The more junk food we eat, the more our appetite increases and could ultimately, result in conditions such as diabetes.

Overly emotional

Children who are overly tired can have random tantrums, no patience and get upset for no particular reason. The smallest things can mean their world has collapsed.

Sleep-deprived kids may seem moody and irritable or even anxious, and have trouble managing their emotions.

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Difficulty concentrating

Lack of sleep also affects higher-level cognitive skills and some children find they are unable to organise their thoughts, especially when it comes to problem-solving.

Even an hour less sleep than normal can affect children at school as they become too tired to concentrate on activities. The fact that children are tired is often over-looked and can be assumed instead, to be bad behaviour.

 

Now you know how much sleep babies and children need, and why it is important, so hopefully this will help you plan your child’s sleep routine effectively, so that they can get the amount of sleep they need.

But if you are worried about how much sleep your child gets, you should keep a diary of their sleep and nap times so that you can keep a better track of their routine. If your child’s schooling is becoming affected, you could contact your GP or a paediatrician for more advice.