Every child needs a certain amount of sleep and this depends on many factors including developmental stages. When the amount of sleep a child is getting falls short of the amount of sleep she needs to function during the day, this results in chronic sleep deprivation. Children may go from a well-mannered, well-behaved and attentive to sleepy and/or overactive, irritable, and defiant. Insufficient sleep is the leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness. The table below provides a guideline for the estimated average sleep time by a child’s age. Keep in mind that these are averages and some children need more or less sleep to functioning well during the day.

Average Hours of Sleep by Age

  • Newborns: 16 – 20 hrs (1- to 4-hr sleep periods)
  • 4-6 months old: 14-17 hours with 2-3 naps
  • 6-12 months old: 13-15 hrs with 2 naps
  • Toddlers (1 to 3 yrs. old): 12 hrs 1-2 naps
  • Preschoolers (3 to 6 yrs. old): 11 – 12 hrs (napping declines/stops by age 5)
  • School Age (6 to 12 yrs. old): 10 – 11 hrs
  • Adolescence (> 12 yrs. old): 9 hrs
In addition, the most common cause of problems getting to sleep and staying asleep in children is poor sleep habits. These habits or behaviors affect how we sleep and can include what we eat and drink, the temperature in our bedroom, our exercise routine, noises in the environment, the activities we choice to participate in before sleep, and the light we are exposed to before bedtime.

  • Develop a 30-minute bedtime routine with the same calming activities completed in the same order each night. The last step in the bedtime routine should happen in your child’s bedroom. Stick to a consistent limit and do not extend the bedtime routine (e.g., “one more book, please?!?!)
  • Avoid activities that tend to increase arousal such as running, jumping, wrestling, or video games. Establish quiet time for about one hour prior to bed (e.g., reading stories, listening to music, working on a simple art project, etc.)
  • Your child’s bedtime and wake-time should be the same time each night. This should be consistent across weekdays and weekends. Some flexibility is fine on the weekends, but the difference in the schedule should not be more than about one hour.
  • Your child will sleep better in a cool, quiet, and dark environment. A night light can help those children that are scared of the dark. Avoid bright overhead lights. The temperature in the bedroom should be cool (< 75 degrees F).
  • Reduce any noise from other family members moving around the house, watching television, and other noisy activities.
  • Provide your child with a light, healthy snack prior to bed. Heavy meals within 1 to 2 hours of bedtime can disrupt sleep. Your child should avoid caffeine (e.g., soda, tea, chocolate, etc.) at least 3 to 4 hours before bedtime.
  • Your child should spend time during the day exercising and playing outside.