What Are the Best Bedtimes for Kids?

Fact-Checked

In their first years of life, children go through a tremendous amount of growth and development. Sleep is a crucial part of that process and can impact everything from physical development (1) to emotions and behaviors (2). Ensuring your child is getting adequate rest encourages good overall health while promoting healthy sleep habits (3) into adolescence and adulthood.

However, establishing a healthy sleep routine for your child can be complicated. Each child’s needs vary and will change as they grow, which can make it challenging to figure out how exactly to set them up for sleep success.

How Much Sleep Do Children Need?

As your child grows and enters different stages of development, their sleep requirements will shift. That is why experts recommend different amounts of sleep based on age (4):

Age Recommended Amount of Sleep (Including Naps)
Newborn: 0-3 months 14-17 hours
Infant: 4-12 months 12-16 hours
Toddler: 1-2 years 11-14 hours
Preschool: 3-5 years 10-13 hours
School Age: 6-12 years 9-12 hours

When looking at these guidelines, it’s important to know that each child has distinctive needs. Some kids may require slightly more or less sleep (5) than others, and their sleep patterns may vary from day to day. Some deviation is normal, and parents should closely watch their child’s behavior to figure out how much sleep is appropriate for them.

What Are the Best Bedtimes for Kids?

Timing is another important aspect of proper sleep for children. Determining what the best bedtime is for your child can promote quality rest while establishing a healthy routine. Studies have also shown that sticking to a bedtime helps your child develop self-care habits and improve mood and memory (6).

To figure out when your child should sleep, first consider when they will be waking up. Particularly for toddlers or school-age children, working backward from their wake up time can help set a bedtime that allows them to get the recommended amount of rest. While bedtimes may be more complicated for newborns or infants who may be engaging in sleep training, setting a regular routine can help your baby learn to sleep through the night.

How Much Should My Child Nap?

Naps can be an important way to work in some extra rest for infants and young children. Naps can also be a useful time for parents and caregivers to relax, take care of household chores, or get some alone time. But how much napping is considered typical?

For infants less than 6 months of age, spontaneous naps and significant amounts of daytime sleep are considered normal (7). Infants between 6 and 18 months of age typically take two naps per day, ranging from 30 minutes to two hours. For children between 2 and 4 years of age, an afternoon nap of around two hours is also typical, though naps too close to bedtime may make it challenging to fall asleep at night.

Generally, kids begin to grow out of naps by the age of 5 (8). Some children around this age may still benefit from daytime rest, or earlier bedtimes if their schedule cannot accommodate naps.

What If My Child Isn’t Sleeping Enough?

Since children and infants often aren’t aware of when they’re overly tired, it is up to parents to carefully watch their child’s behaviors to determine if they are getting enough sleep. Some signs that your child may not be getting enough rest include:

  • Sleepiness during the day
  • Fussiness or irritability, particularly in the afternoon
  • Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning
  • Behavioral issues such as aggression or inattentiveness
  • Difficulty focusing on daily tasks

The best course of action for caregivers who are concerned about their child or infant’s sleeping pattern is to speak with a doctor. You can also keep a sleep journal (9) to log information such as hours of rest, which can be useful in tracking sleep patterns and identifying any possible issues.

Tips for Creating a Relaxing Sleep Environment

A calm and relaxing sleep environment can help you and your child get quality rest. Some ways to create a positive sleep environment include:

  • Dimming the Lights:Our bodies rely on environmental cues such as light to determine when to initiate sleep. Darker environments can help signal to the body that it is time to rest, which can be helpful in promoting deeper rest for both parents and children.
  • Avoiding Electronic Devices:The blue light that is emitted by electronic devices such as tablets, smartphones, and televisions can disrupt sleep (10). Studies have also shown that children are even more sensitive (11) to the negative effects of electronics on sleep compared with adults. Reducing screen time may make it easier for children to fall asleep and get quality rest.
  • Reducing Noise and Distractions:A loud environment might make it difficult for children to fall asleep. Turning off the television and avoiding noisy disruptions can help create a soothing space that promotes rest.
  • Setting a Regular Routine: Enforcing a bedtime and having a set nighttime routine can help your child learn how to unwind and prepare for sleep. Regularly partaking in relaxing activities such as reading a book together or singing a lullaby can help set the expectation of sleep.

While it can be difficult to enforce a regular bedtime for children, doing so has a wide range of physical and emotional benefits that can last into adulthood. A soothing bedtime routine can also be a way to connect with your child and encourage positive behaviors.

References

+ 11 Sources
  1. 1. Accessed on March 24, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21754974/
  2. 2. Accessed on March 24, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23814345/
  3. 3. Accessedon  March 24, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29195725/
  4. 4. Accessed March 24, 2021.https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html
  5. 5. Accessed March 24, 2021.https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/sleep/healthy_sleep.pdf
  6. 6. Accessed March 24, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29562892/
  7. 7. Accessed March 24, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7792496/
  8. 8. Accessed March 24, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31862445/
  9. 9. Accessed March 24, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22294820/
  10. 10. Accessed March 24, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26900325/
  11. 11. Accessed March 24, 2021.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24840814/

Related Reading:

  • Crib Essentials: How to Prepare a Bed for Baby

    Creating a comfy, cozy sleep spot for your newborn is important, but so is putting your baby to sleep carefully. Certain types of bedding can raise the risk of Sudden…

  • How Much Sleep Do Babies Need?

    Babies are asleep for more than half of their first year of life. This time spent sleeping allows an infant's brain and nervous system to develop, preparing them for the years to come. We cover how much sleep your baby needs to promote healthy growth, why sleep is so crucial for infants and toddlers, and answers to the most frequently asked questions about infant sleep habits.

  • How to Get a Baby to Sleep Through the Night

    Parents of babies are often sleep-deprived due to their baby's night awakenings. Learn when your baby should sleep through the night and how to help them.