Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep?


Sleep is as necessary for your child’s health as eating and exercising. While your child sleeps, the body releases growth hormone (1) to help your child grow. Good sleep ensures your child is rested and energized for their day. Research also shows that sleep impacts everything from mood to alertness (2) and the ability to learn (3). By ensuring your child gets enough sleep each night, you can help them be healthy and successful.

What is the Normal Amount of Sleep for Your Child?

The normal amount of sleep your child needs depends on their age and habits. The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following guidelines (4) for daily sleep:

Age Amount of Sleep Per Day
Newborns (0-3 months) 14-17 hours
Infants (4-11 months) 12-15 hours
Toddlers (1-2 years) 11-14 hours
Pre-Schoolers (3-5 years) 10-13 hours
School-Aged Children (6-13 years) 9-11 hours
Teenagers (14-17 years) 8-10 hours

For younger children, these guidelines include naps.

How Much Should Your Child Nap?

Newborns nap throughout the day to get the proper amount of sleep. Typically, they stay awake for up to three hours at a time (5). Infants stay awake longer but still need one to four naps a day. Toddlers usually need one nap per day. Most children still nap at age three, but by age five they tend to stop napping (6).

For adolescents, frequent napping may interfere with their ability to sleep at night (7). If your teen must nap, they should try to keep the nap between 10 and 20 minutes (8) and avoid napping in the evening. Napping between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. can make sleeping or staying asleep through the night difficult.

What is Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation occurs when your child doesn’t get enough sleep (9). Possible causes of sleep deprivation include:

  • Inconsistent sleep schedules
  • Excessive extracurriculars (10) or activities
  • Caffeine intake
  • Evening use of electronic devices
  • Obesity
  • Untreated anxiety or sleep problems

Just like adults, children can experience sleep deprivation. Research shows anywhere between 25% and 50% of preschoolers and 40% of adolescents experience sleep-related problems (11). About 6 in 10 middle schoolers (grades 6 to 8) and 7 in 10 high schoolers (grades 9 to 12) do not get enough sleep (12) each night.

Beyond heavy eyelids and yawning, sleep deprivation symptoms in children vary based on age.

Sleep Deprivation in Babies and Toddlers

Sleep-deprived babies and toddlers have a hard time staying awake during the day. They also struggle to express their emotions fully (13) and may be more angry, fussy, or irritable than well-rested children.

Sleep Deprivation in Children

The side effects of sleep deprivation in children differ from those of adults. Children who are sleep-deprived may become hyperactive and struggle to pay attention (14). Sleep-deprived children may not perform their best in school and may even misbehave. Other effects of sleep deprivation in children include mood swings, anger, impulsivity, lack of motivation, and depression.

Sleep Deprivation in Teens

Similar to children, sleep-deprived adolescents struggle to pay attention and perform well in school. Teens without enough sleep may also experience changes in mood, including suicidal ideation. A lack of sleep also puts teens at higher risk for risky behaviors such as using alcohol and drugs. Because a lack of sleep affects cognitive processing and reaction time, sleep-deprived teens have increased rates of car crashes and injuries from sports or work.

How Can Parents Help Their Children with Sleep Deprivation?

Parents can help their children avoid sleep deprivation by establishing a regular sleep routine (15). A bedtime routine can include a snack, bathing, brushing teeth, reading or singing lullabies, and cuddling. A consistent bedtime routine improves your child’s sleep by ensuring your child goes to sleep at the same time each night. These regular routines also contribute to other positive outcomes such as literacy and communication skills, emotion and behavior regulation, and familial bonding.

As your child grows, they may become more independent with their evening routine. However, be sure to continue to set a bedtime. Children and adolescents with set bedtimes are more likely to get sufficient sleep (16) than their peers without bedtimes set by parents. These children are also more likely to stay awake during the day and not suffer from fatigue (17).

Use Good Sleep Hygiene

Proper sleep hygiene also contributes to sufficient sleep for adolescents and children. You can guide your child in several ways:

  • Create a Good Sleep Environment: A proper sleep environment is one that is set to a cool temperature, with minimal noise and light. A white noise machine or fan can block out excess noise, and dark curtains can keep out unnecessary light. Children can sleep with night lights if needed.
  • Avoid Electronics Before Bedtime: Electronics such as TVs, computers, phones, and video game consoles emit blue light. This light can interfere with the natural sleep rhythm by telling the brain it’s time to be alert and awake.
  • Use the Bedroom for Sleep Only: Children should use their bedrooms only for naptime or sleeping at night. Avoid using the bedroom as a place for a time-out.
  • Keep the Sleeping Schedule Consistent: Even on the weekends, try to keep your child’s wake and sleep schedule similar to weekdays, with no less than an hour difference. Staying up too late on the weekend can disrupt the circadian rhythm and make falling asleep on time during the week more difficult.
  • Exercise or Spend Time Outside: Daily exercise is great for your child’s health and can help them sleep well at night.

Build Your Routine Together

Establishing a good sleep routine takes practice. Invite your child to help select their nighttime activities so they feel involved in the process. You can offer them choices, including whether they would like to read a book or sing a lullaby before bed. Praise and affirmation can positively reinforce good habits, too. With practice, you and your child can develop a regular routine that helps them sleep soundly and feel refreshed in the morning.


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