Is my child getting enough sleep? That's an important question parents begin asking themselves from the moment kids enter their lives. The questions surrounding sleep never end, they only change depending on the age and stage of your child. Kids need varying quantities of sleep throughout their lives, and knowing the suggested bedtimes by age will help parents make sure their children have a healthy sleep schedule.
The Importance of Sleep
Fact: kids need sleep to be their best selves. Studies have shown that when children get a good night's sleep, they tend to have better attention spans and behaviors. Additionally, they show an increase in learning, memory, and mental and physical health. Kids who lack sufficient sleep can be at an increased risk for depression, obesity, and high blood pressure.
Sleep is an essential component of a child's development. This means parents need to get those darlings to bed on time so they have a chance to enjoy and benefit from some solid slumber.
Suggested Bedtimes by Age
The amount of sleep a child should get each night largely depends on their age and developmental stage. Below are sleep recommendations by age at a glance, so parents can easily calculate a bedtime schedule.
Recommended Bedtime for Newborns
Specfic bedtimes are not recommended for newborns. Newborns awaken frequently to eat or have other needs met, so it doesn't make much sense to have a set bedtime schedule for them. They do a lot of sleeping at this age, often snoozing for 15 to 18 hours per day. In the evening, watch for signs or cues of a sleepy baby like:
- Closing fists
- Fluttering eyelids, rubbing eyes
- Jerky arm and leg movements
- Sucking on fingers
When you notice these signs, set your baby down in a safe sleeping space. Know that, unlike older babies, toddlers and kids, putting a newborn or young baby to sleep won't mean you are off the clock until the morning. Newborns generally feed every 2-3 hours, no matter the time of day.
Recommended Bedtime for Children One to Ten Months-Old
After the first month of life, babies need slightly less sleep, ranging from 14 to 15 hours per day. It is recommended that babies of this age go to sleep anywhere between 8:00 and 11:00 p.m. As babies get older, four to ten months, parents can start moving towards the earlier recommended bedtime. Babies in this age range will likely start working in a daily nap or two and sleeping in at least one lengthier period.
Recommended Bedtime for Children 10 to 15 Months-Old
Older babies need, on average, 12 to 14 hours of sleep each day. If tots have dropped one of their daytime naps, then bedtimes should be shifted to an earlier time to get all the sleep their growing body needs. Babies of this age should turn in for the night anywhere between 6:00 and 7:30 p.m. It is also important to note when babies this age are napping. If they tend to nap in the late afternoon, an earlier bedtime will likely be unattainable. Shift naps to earlier parts of the day so little ones are ready to nod off after dinner and a bath.
Recommended Bedtimes for Children Fifteen Months-Old to Age Three
Toddlers also need about 11-14 hours of sleep per day, and it is recommended that they go to bed between 6:00 and 7:30 p.m. If your child has gone on strike at naptime, you will want to aim for an earlier bedtime. If they are still a solid daytime snoozer, napping for a couple of hours in the early afternoon or late morning, then you can wait until 7:30 (or even 8:00 p.m.).
Bedtime for Three to Six Year-Olds
Children in this age range require anywhere from 10 to 13 hours of sleep each night. The proposed bedtime is between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. Most families have evenings packed with activities, so a 6 p.m. bedtime might not be possible. Now, if you have to get the kids up extremely early to get to before-care or a school or daycare center far from home, you might wake up before 6:00 a.m. If this is the case for your family, you will want to try to get the kids to sleep on the earlier side of the recommended range, so that at least 11 hours of sleep is possible.
Remember that just because your babies are growing up (and fast, might we add) and probably no longer nap at this age, they likely still require some rest time in the middle of the day. During the daytime, work in some quiet time with music, books, and low lights, removing as much stimulation as you can for 45 minutes to an hour.
Bedtime for Seven to 12 Year-Olds
Older kids are busy during the day, but they still need a lot of rest to accommodate their growing brains and bodies. The recommended amount of daily sleep is 9-11 hours, and the recommended bedtime is between 7:30 and 9:00 p.m. Children this age benefit from all that sleep provides them with, including but not limited to better cognitive performance, better behavior, increased attention spans, and attention to learning, all of which are required of them during this age span.
Bedtime for Teens
Teens... they want to burn the midnight oil and sleep until noon. Your child's bedtime and sleep patterns have likely not been this topsy turvy since the newborn days! Teenagers think they are pretty grown up and can set their own schedules, but they actually still need a bedtime. Teens should be getting about 9 hours of sleep each night, and they tend to get up early on weekdays to catch the bus. If your child gets up at 6:30 a.m., then they should be going to bed around 9:30 p.m.
Teenagers might have quite a bit on their brains, between school, friends, social happening, tests, etc. It takes a child, on average, at least 15 minutes to fall asleep, so encourage time to wind down for kids this age. Suggest reading before bed, taking a bath, or even doing some meditation to help calm their busy brains.
Help Set the Stage for Slumber
Getting the kids to sleep at their suggested bedtime is often easier said than done. Oftentimes, life gets in the way of a 7:00 p.m. bedtime, especially when there are older kids in the home who need help with homework or a ride home from sports. You cannot control all outside factors that might tend to push bedtimes back, but you can work on setting the stage for sleep. Avoiding certain things that thwart sleep can help kids achieve suggested bedtimes, as can creating routines and structures that promote sleep in children.
Things to Avoid Before Bedtime
Look at the activities and behaviors that are occurring right before bedtime. Are they causing your family to slide on the set bedtime, meaning a child is likely receiving less sleep than they need? If you notice that getting to bed at the proposed time is not happening because of the following, you'll want to address and correct what you can, so your kids get their recommended rest.
- Staying with your child until they are asleep. This is an example of a "sleep crutch" and doesn't allow kids to learn key self-soothing strategies; hence, they might struggle to fall asleep at a decent time when left alone.
- Caffeine and sugar. This doesn't just mean no soda pop and cake right before bedtime; it also means looking at those afternoon snacks and meals. Does a reduction in stimulants need to be addressed in your child's diet? Take a deeper look at what is fueling your child's body.
- Limit screen time before bed. As studies show, screens can impact how children fall asleep and how long they stay asleep.
- Steer clear of roughhousing. No pillow fights, tickle wars, or other activities that rile kids up before bedtime.
- Try not to engage in lengthy, emotional conversations that have no end in sight. Save these topics for a time during the day where you can address them in full.
How to Encourage Sleep for Kids
You know what to avoid in hopes of getting to bed on time, but what can you do to encourage sleep? Creating a serene environment is important, and can help kids nod off more quickly, aiding in achieving enough daily sleep.
- Keep the bedtime as consistent as possible.
- Create a predictable bedtime routine for kids as it greatly benefits them regarding sleep efficiency.
- Create a peaceful sleep space. Lower the thermostat, buy blackout curtains, put on soothing sounds, turn on a white noise machine, or use slumber-inducing essential oils to help kids fall asleep faster.
Getting to Bed on Time Is Important
If the kids go to bed too late, they miss out on important sleep, setting them up for anything but success. No matter what stage of life your child is in, pay attention to the recommended amounts of sleep they need to better thrive, and the recommended bedtime for their age. Reduce sleep-stifling activities and create a space for slumber, so bedtime becomes the easiest part of the day, not the one everyone dreads the most.