Kids and sleep: How much sleep is enough in a day?

Are you cringing at the thought of waking up your peacefully sleeping child? You’re not alone! We all prefer to let sleeping babies lie, but there are certain situations where it’s beneficial to practice a little “sleep-wake management” to improve overall sleep. To save you from uncertainty, we’ve compiled a list of instances when waking your child from sleep is recommended.

Kids and sleep: How much sleep is enough in a day?
Kids and sleep: How much sleep is enough in a day?

Why is Sleep Important for Kids?

Sleep plays a vital role in a child’s development and growth. It supports essential brain functions like problem-solving and memory. Children who consistently get fewer hours of sleep than recommended may face difficulties with learning and daily tasks. However, sleep needs vary among individuals, and some children may require less sleep for healthy development. If you have concerns about your child’s sleep, consult with their pediatrician to address those concerns.

What is Considered “Too Much Day Sleep” for Kids?

To wake or not to wake, that is the question. Here are a few scenarios where gently rousing your child from sleep is beneficial, along with one case where it isn’t necessary:

Too many naps: When children take more naps than recommended for their age, it can reinforce sleep patterns that involve shorter naps and reduced nighttime sleep. For example, most 6-month-olds require 3 naps per day. Babies following a 4-nap schedule at this age often experience very short naps, early waking, or extended periods of wakefulness at night.

Excessive total hours of day sleep: If individual naps are too long or the overall duration of day sleep is excessive, it can create or reinforce challenging sleep patterns, such as subsequent sleep periods that are shorter than ideal. The definition of “too long” or “too much” depends on your child’s age and their typical number of naps.

Oversleeping in the morning: If your child’s wake time in the morning varies significantly, and establishing a consistent schedule is challenging, consider waking them up to maintain a stable wake time. Although it may be tempting to let them sleep in after a rough night, inconsistent wake times make it harder to determine the optimal nap and bedtime, which can affect overall sleep quality.

When Should You Allow Your Child to “Sleep In”?

Certain circumstances call for disregarding the aforementioned guidelines for managing your child’s schedule:

– Newborns: You need not worry about strictly adhering to a schedule for newborns. Their circadian rhythm is still developing, and it takes time for their sleep patterns to regulate.

– Illness or chronic sleep deprivation: If your child is unwell or consistently sleep deprived, prioritize allowing them to get the sleep they need, even if it temporarily disrupts their schedule. Focus on managing the schedule once they feel better.

– While we advocate for regular (but not rigid) schedules for the overall well-being of families, we understand that maintaining a fixed schedule can be stressful for some. If your family thrives on flexibility and your child is obtaining sufficient sleep, feel free to adapt a routine that works best for you and your family!

How Excessive Day Sleep Can Impact Night Sleep

Once the newborn phase is over, sleep is primarily regulated by two systems: homeostatic sleep pressure (also known as wake windows) and the circadian rhythm. Daytime sleep influences nighttime sleep, and vice versa. When assessing your child’s sleep, it’s important to consider the full 24-hour picture. Let’s explore some scenarios where excessive daytime sleep can interfere with nighttime sleep:

– Scenario 1: Suppose your 10-month-old requires a minimum of 3.5 hours of sleep between their last nap and bedtime to accumulate enough sleep pressure. In other words, the wake window before bedtime needs to be long enough for them to feel tired and fall asleep easily. A 2-nap schedule generally allows for sufficient daytime sleep, 3-4 hours of wakefulness before bedtime, and 10-12 hours of uninterrupted nighttime sleep. This ensures your child has a solid foundation for being well-rested.

However, if your 10-month-old takes 3 naps, the math won’t add up. Either the naps will be too short, the wake window before bedtime will be insufficient, or nighttime sleep will be shortened. These scenarios can prevent your child from being well-rested.

– Scenario 2: Now imagine your toddler typically gets around 13 hours of sleep within a 24-hour period. If they nap for 4 hours during the day, they will have only 9 hours left for nighttime sleep. Consequently, your child is likely to wake up in the middle of the night for an extended period or wake up too early in the morning. In either case, they are unlikely to feel well-rested, and neither will you.

How Much Sleep Does My Child Actually Need?

Sleep requirements vary based on age and the individual child. To determine how much sleep your child should ideally get in a 24-hour period, we recommend referring to our recommended schedules by age or considering the guidelines provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). However, it’s essential to consider factors beyond just hours of sleep, such as mood and energy level, to gauge whether your child is truly well-rested.

Excessive Day Sleep: Age-based Chart

If your child is sleeping less than 10 hours at night, it may indicate that they are getting too much daytime sleep. But what constitutes “too much” for your child? The answer depends on their age and unique sleep needs. The definition of excessive day sleep will differ for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarteners.

Here’s a chart to help you assess whether your child is napping excessively. Consider both the number of naps and the total hours of sleep. Either factor can impact nighttime sleep duration.

Note that these are general guidelines, and individual sleep needs can vary. While these recommendations are applicable to most children within a specific age group, they may not account for higher or lower than average sleep requirements or any underlying medical conditions. If your child meets or exceeds these sleep duration guidelines and obtains sufficient nighttime sleep, there is likely no need to restrict napping.

Age of child Maximum number of naps recommended for sufficient night sleep Maximum hours of day sleep recommended for sufficient night sleep
3 months 5 naps per day 5 hours of total day sleep
4 months 4 naps per day 4.5 hours of total day sleep
5 months 4 naps per day 4 hours of total day sleep
6 months 3 naps per day 3.5 hours of total day sleep
7 – 9 months 3 naps per day 3.5 hours of total day sleep
10 – 17 months 2 naps per day 3 hours of total day sleep
18 – 30 months 1 nap per day 3 hours of total day sleep
2.5 – 3 years 1 nap per day 2.5 hours of total day sleep
3 – 5 years 1 nap per day 2 hours of total day sleep

[Note: For prematurely born children, we base sleep development during infancy on their adjusted age. As children transition into toddlerhood and preschool age, their sleep needs typically align with their actual age.]

Newborns (0 to 3 months)

Average sleep range: 11 to 17 hours per day

During the first few months of life, newborns operate on their own sleep schedule without much regard for day and night differences. They sleep, wake up, eat, and repeat the cycle. It’s important to note that newborns do not have a fully developed circadian rhythm, which distinguishes between night and day. Around six months of age, they begin to develop distinct sleep patterns for nighttime and daytime.

According to the Pediatric Sleep Council, most babies in this age range sleep approximately 11 to 17 hours per day. Since sleep duration varies widely during this stage and is spread evenly throughout the day and night, there isn’t a specific recommendation for the length of newborns’ sleep.

Ensure a safe sleep environment for your newborn by avoiding bed sharing and keeping crib accessories such as bumpers out of their sleeping area.

Babies (4 to 12 months)

Recommended sleep duration: 12 to 16 hours, including naps

As babies start to differentiate between day and night, establishing a consistent sleep routine becomes possible. At this age, you can calculate the combined hours of nighttime sleep and naps to reach the recommended total sleep duration.

Typically, babies in this age group sleep for around six to eight hours at night, with an additional shorter sleep period. The remaining sleep occurs during daytime naps. The number of naps can vary; some babies take one nap, while others take two or three. The total number of hours of sleep is what matters as long as the baby is happy and healthy.

Between 6 and 12 months, most babies no longer require nighttime feedings unless there is a medical condition necessitating it. If your baby is healthy, you can gradually wean them from nighttime feedings during this period.

Toddlers (12 to 24 months)

Recommended sleep duration: 11 to 14 hours, including naps

As toddlers become more active and expressive, their sleep needs continue to change. They are likely to transition to fewer or shorter naps, usually consolidating to one nap per day, and getting most of their sleep during the night.

At this stage, toddlers often thrive on routine. Establishing consistent sleep boundaries, regular routines, and positive reinforcement can help them achieve the necessary sleep, according to Dr. Shah.

Preschoolers (3 to 5 years)

Recommended sleep duration: 10 to 13 hours, may include a nap

Around this age, most children begin to outgrow their afternoon nap. The transition from napping to relying solely on nighttime sleep is typically gradual.

Between the ages of 3 and 5, naps become less frequent, occurring on alternate days or sporadically. During this transition, even if your child doesn’t nap, it’s beneficial to incorporate quiet time in the afternoon for relaxation and recharging.

If your child no longer naps, adjusting bedtime slightly earlier can compensate for the missed nap and ensure sufficient sleep.

School-aged kids (6 to 12 years)

Recommended sleep duration: 9 to 12 hours

When children start attending school, their primary responsibility becomes learning. Sufficient sleep plays a crucial role in keeping them engaged and focused during classes.

Inadequate sleep can lead to difficulties with concentration and appropriate behavior at school, potentially hindering academic performance, sports activities, and extracurricular engagements.

Teenagers (13 to 18 years)

Recommended sleep duration: 8 to 10 hours

Teenagers face numerous demands on their time, including school, work, extracurricular activities, homework, and social commitments. Consequently, sleep often gets neglected, resulting in insufficient rest.

It is common for teenagers to feel tired throughout the day due to a lack of adequate sleep, which can create a detrimental cycle. Prioritizing sleep is crucial for maintaining overall well-being and optimal functioning.

Additionally, as teenagers start driving, it is essential to address the issue of sleep deprivation, as drowsy driving can have severe consequences.

5 Tips and Tricks to Manage Naps and Extend Nighttime Sleep

Tip #1: Determine the optimal number of naps based on age

The number of naps your baby or toddler needs can vary, but here are some general recommendations:

Age of child Number of naps recommended for sufficient night sleep
3 months 3 – 5 naps per day
4 – 5 months 3 – 4 naps per day
6 months 3 naps per day
7 – 9 months 2 – 3 naps per day
10 – 13 months 2 naps per day
14 – 18 months 1 – 2 naps per day
19 – 36 months 1 nap per day
3 – 5 years 0 – 1 naps per day
6+ years 0 naps per day

Tip #2: Limit lengthy naps

If your child experiences short naps or wakes up too early, consider waking them from naps that might interfere with their nighttime sleep or contribute to a pattern of short naps.

Allowing a baby to sleep for long periods during the day can reduce their nighttime sleep or affect other naps. For younger babies, it is advisable to limit individual naps to 2 hours, while older children may need to restrict their naps to 1 or 1.5 hours, depending on their schedule.

Tip #3: Set a maximum total daily nap duration

Excessive daytime sleep can also impact nighttime sleep. Consult the above chart if you’re facing nighttime sleep issues such as difficulty falling asleep at bedtime, interrupted sleep, or early waking. You may need to wake your baby from some naps to ensure they sleep well at night.

Tip #4: Opt for an earlier bedtime instead of an additional nap

If your child takes short naps throughout the day, it can be challenging to reach bedtime without adding another short nap. Whenever possible, try moving bedtime earlier rather than introducing an extra nap. While using melatonin for kids might be tempting, establishing a consistent and earlier bedtime can be highly effective. Let’s consider an example:

– Example Scenario: You have a 5-month-old who only naps for 30-45 minutes at a time throughout the day. They’re overtired, and a 4-nap schedule will inevitably lead to a meltdown. You’re tempted to offer a fifth nap.

– Solution: Stick with the 4-nap schedule but shift bedtime earlier. This helps prevent overtiredness, lengthens nighttime sleep, and breaks the cycle.

Note: We understand that this may not always be feasible for every family on a daily basis. However, being aware of the expected outcomes is important. If you must offer more naps on a particular day, anticipate the possibility of early waking or extended periods of wakefulness during the night.

Tip #5: Maintain consistent wake-up times

Track your child’s sleep using the Huckleberry app and observe their wake-up times. If the wake-up time varies significantly, it can make it difficult to establish optimal nap and bedtime routines. Maintaining a consistent wake-up time within a 30-minute window each morning helps regulate your child’s schedule, leading to improved sleep.

What to Do If Your Baby Isn’t Getting Enough Sleep

If your baby isn’t getting enough sleep, you can try the following strategies to help them:

– Put your baby to bed when drowsy: Avoid putting your baby to bed when they’re already asleep. Instead, encourage them to fall asleep while drowsy. This helps them learn to self-soothe, fall back asleep independently if they wake up during the night, and associate their crib with bedtime.

– Comfort your baby without removing them from the crib: If your baby cries when you put them to bed, provide comfort without taking them out of their sleep space. Consult your pediatrician to identify the cause of their distress and develop a soothing plan if crying persists.

– Establish a bedtime routine: Create a consistent bedtime routine that involves familiar activities associated with preparing for sleep. This routine can include rocking, bathing, changing into pajamas, reading, dimming the lights, and feeding your baby just before bedtime.

If you’re concerned about your baby’s sleep health, consult your pediatrician for specific guidance on improving their sleep. Consider keeping a sleep diary for a couple of weeks to track your baby’s sleep patterns.

Too much sleep FAQ

Q: How many hours of sleep are considered excessive for children?

The recommended amount of sleep for children varies based on their age. Typically, preschool-age children (3-5 years) need around 10-13 hours of sleep per day, school-age children (6-13 years) need 9-11 hours, and teenagers (14-17 years) need 8-10 hours. While it’s important for children to get sufficient sleep, consistently exceeding the recommended range may indicate an underlying issue, and it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional.

Q: How many naps are considered too many?

The number of naps a child needs depends on their age. Newborns usually have multiple short naps throughout the day. As they grow older, the number of naps gradually decreases. Around 6-9 months, most infants transition to two naps per day, and by 12-18 months, they typically have one afternoon nap. Most children outgrow regular napping by the age of 3-5 years, but individual variations exist, and some children may still benefit from occasional naps even at older ages. It’s important to establish a nap routine suitable for your child’s age and monitor their overall sleep duration to ensure it falls within the recommended range.

Q: Is it problematic for kids to sleep throughout the day?

While occasional extended periods of sleep can occur due to factors like illness or growth spurts, consistently sleeping all day may indicate an underlying issue that requires attention. Excessive daytime sleepiness can be a sign of certain health conditions or sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy. If you notice your child consistently sleeping excessively during the day, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare professional to rule out any potential concerns and ensure their overall well-being.

Q: Is 12 hours of sleep too much for a child?

The recommended amount of sleep for children varies based on their age. For most school-age children (6-13 years), 9-11 hours of sleep per night is considered appropriate. While some children may naturally require slightly more or less sleep, consistently sleeping 12 hours per night may exceed the recommended range. If your child consistently sleeps significantly more than the recommended hours for their age group, it may be worth discussing with a healthcare professional to ensure there are no underlying health concerns or sleep disturbances affecting their sleep patterns.

Q: Can my child nap excessively?

Yes, when a child naps excessively during the day, it can interfere with subsequent naps or nighttime sleep. Consult our chart to determine if you should limit daytime sleep.

Q: My child is sleeping excessively. Is sleeping too much harmful?

Sleep needs vary, and some children require more sleep than others. Please consult if your child shows signs of lethargy or if you’re concerned about their sleep duration.

Q: Is it unhealthy to nap excessively?

Napping excessively can lead to insufficient overall sleep. Since obtaining a sufficient amount of quality sleep is important for a child’s health and well-being, it’s advisable to consider limiting daytime sleep based on their age and sleep needs.

Q: What happens if my child sleeps excessively during the day?

Sleeping excessively during the day can contribute to or reinforce challenging sleep patterns, such as short naps, difficulty falling asleep at bedtime, fragmented sleep, early morning waking, and reduced nighttime sleep duration.

Q: Why does my child keep sleeping so much during the day?

When children don’t get enough sleep at night, it can lead to increased sleep during the day, creating a cycle of insufficient nighttime sleep.


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