Written by: Nicole Likarish
Medically Reviewed by: Dr. Sherrie Neustein
Updated December 4, 2020
Sleep is one of the most important factors of an infant’s first year of life, as it contributes to essential physical and cognitive development. As they approach six months of age, babies begin sleeping for longer stretches of time, and some even sleep through the night.
Since infant sleep tends to change around six months of age, parents might wonder if their baby is sleeping a normal amount. This guide focuses on how much a six-month-old baby should sleep, what the best sleep schedule is for an infant this age, and why sleep is so important for babies.
How Much Should a 6-Month-Old Sleep?
Traditionally, experts have recommended that six-month-old babies sleep at least 14 hours per day. However, a study of over 5,000 babies found that American six-month-olds sleep an average of 12.9 hours per 24-hour period.
Additionally, the amount an infant sleeps appears to be related to culture. Babies in predominantly Asian countries tend to sleep less than babies in countries elsewhere. Also, Italian babies tend to sleep less than many of their European counterparts, such as those in France, Switzerland, and England.
Most infant sleep studies show six-month-old babies average at least 11 hours of sleep each 24-hour period. In addition to culture, factors such as where a baby sleeps (in the parents' bedroom or their own) and how they are fed (by breast or bottle) can affect a baby's total daily sleep duration.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, if your baby averages at least 12 hours of sleep during each 24-hour period but no more than 16, they are within the range of what's considered "normal." Not all healthy six-month-old babies sleep the traditionally recommended 14 hours, so don't worry if your infant doesn't either.
Should 6-Month-Old Babies Sleep Through the Night?
At six months old, 62.4% of babies sleep for six uninterrupted hours overnight, and 43% sleep for eight uninterrupted hours. Data shows that many, but not all, babies sleep through the night at this age depending on how you define "through the night."
If your baby isn't sleeping through the night by six months of age, do not worry. There is a lot of variation within babies at this age, and not all sleep through the night. Even at one year of age, 27.9% of babies don't sleep for six uninterrupted hours overnight and 56.6% do not sleep for eight uninterrupted hours.
Although most parents would likely prefer their six-month-old infant to sleep throughout the night, this isn't a developmental norm for this age. If a six-month-old wakes up a couple of times per night, they are considered normal for their age.
What Is the Best 6-Month Sleep Schedule?
There is no single, universal sleep schedule that all six-month-old babies should follow. Many parents think the best 6-month baby schedule involves their baby sleeping uninterrupted throughout the night and for short naps during the day. Although this schedule might be ideal for parents, not all babies adhere to it by this age.
There is a lot of variation among babies' sleep schedules at six months. Some six-month-old babies get most of their sleep at night and take one or two naps during the day, while others sleep sporadically across daytime and nighttime hours.
Here's a sample 6-month-old baby sleep schedule:
|6:30 AM||Wake up|
|8 to 9:30 AM||Nap|
|1 to 3 PM||Nap|
|8:30 to 11 PM||Go to sleep, wake only to eat|
|11:30 PM||Go back to sleep for the night|
In this example sleep schedule, the six-month-old baby sleeps for two and a half hours at night, wakes up to eat, then sleeps for seven more hours uninterrupted at night. The baby also sleeps for three and a half hours during the day across two naps. Overall, the baby receives 13 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.
This schedule represents a baby who has begun sleeping more at night and less during the day. Not all six-month-old babies sleep through the night, however. Some six-month-olds have sleep schedules that are more similar to those of three-month-olds.
What Is the Best Bedtime for a 6-Month-Old?
How long and how well a baby sleeps is more important than what time they go to bed. Bedtimes tend to heavily depend on the parents and also vary by culture.
Parents are encouraged to choose the bedtime that works best for their schedule and allows the baby to get plenty of sleep. Most importantly, the baby should receive between 12 and 16 hours of sleep during each 24-hour period.
What Is the Best 9-Month-Old Nap Schedule?
There is no specific, universal nap schedule that applies to nine-month-old babies. The number of naps a baby takes between 6-9 months of age varies quite a bit between babies.
One study found that three-month-olds take an average of 3.4 naps per day and 12-month-olds take an average of 1.9 naps per day. If your baby is between six and nine months old, you can expect them to nap anywhere from once to multiple times per day.
Why Is Sleep Important for a Baby?
Sleep is important for babies because of the rapid mental and physical growth they experience in the first year of life. During this year, the brain and central nervous system develop quickly, often during sleep.
A review of 10 infant studies suggests that sleeping improves memory, language, and executive function in babies. Sleep has also been found to positively affect physical growth and emotional regulation in babies and children.
What Is a 6-Month-Old Sleep Regression?
Some popular parenting books, blogs, and websites discuss a six-month-old "sleep regression." In a sleep regression, a baby is supposed to regress by becoming fussier, clingier, or more difficult to put to sleep.
Unfortunately, there isn't scientific evidence to support the idea of a sleep regression at six months or any other specific age (11). The research often cited to support the concept of sleep regressions was conducted in 1992 and only involved 15 babies (11).
Unless more credible research emerges in the future, parents are better off focusing on promoting healthy sleep habits generally and not worrying about their baby experiencing a "regression."
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