Children and Sleep
How much sleep does a child need?
Infants (ages 0 - 12 months)
Newborns may sleep as much as 20 hours a day, but sleep periods are brief and irregular. By the time infants are six months old, most will sleep five or six hours at a time during the night.
Toddlers (ages 1 - 3)
Between the ages of one to three years, most children will change from taking two naps a day to taking one nap a day. On average, a one year old will sleep close to 14 hours a day, including naps. By age three, however, sleep time decreases to about 12 hours a day.
Preschoolers (ages 4 - 5)
Most preschoolers stop taking naps and will sleep about 11 hours at night.
Grade-schoolers (ages 6 - 12)
A solid ten hours of sleep is common among children ages six to 12.
Teenagers (ages 13 - 18)
The average teen in the U.S. only gets seven and half hours of sleep. However, new research shows that nine to nine and a half hours of sleep is the ideal amount of sleep a teenager’s brain and body need.
It isn’t until ages 18 - 20 that the adult norm of seven to eight hours of sleep is reached.
What happens if children don’t get enough sleep?
Lack of sleep can cause irritability, decrease attention span and decrease alertness-all of which can impact your child’s lifestyle both at home and at school.
They just won’t sleep!
Struggling with children at bedtime frustrates many parents. You aren’t alone.
- Engage your child in quiet, late-evening activities such as reading. Read to a young child, have an early school age child read to you or have the older child read to herself. Stay away from video games and television; they often stimulate children, making it harder to get them to sleep.
- Establish and follow a bedtime routine.
- Set regular nap times and bed times.
- Avoid soda, chocolate or other snacks that may have caffeine.
Sleep disorders in children
Sleep apnea, narcolepsy and restless legs syndrome are sleep disorders that can occur in children. Some of these sleep problems can run in families. However, parents who have a sleep disorder may not recognize sleep problems because they think irregular sleep is normal.
Signs that may indicate the presence of a sleep disorder:
- Falling asleep during class
- Snoring with periods of stopped breathing
- Repeated jerks during sleep
- A family history of restless legs syndrome (in a child who does not sleep well)
If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms make an appointment with his/her doctor.
For more information about sleep disorders in children, the following publications may be of assistance:
- Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Marc Weissbluth, MD (Fawcett Columbine)
- How to Sleep Like a Baby, Wake up Refreshed and Get More Out of Life, by Dianne Hales (Ballantine Books)
- How to Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, by Richard Ferber, MD (Simon & Schuster)
For more information about sleep disorders, talk to your family doctor or contact the Carle Sleep Center at (217) 383-3364.
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