How much sleep does a child actually need?


How great the need for sleep is and how it is distributed day and night varies greatly from child to child, even in toddler and preschool age.

How much sleep does a child need?

Not infrequently, children spend more time in bed than they actually need sleep. No wonder they squeal at bedtime or have a hard time falling asleep. The child’s overall need for sleep decreases with age, but continues to vary from child to child. For example, toddlers with about two years need an average of 12 to 13 hours of sleep, with three or four years often only eleven to twelve hours. But even at this age, deviations of up to two hours are completely normal. Compared to infancy, the adaptation to the day-night change reduces above all the daytime sleep. A newborn baby cannot yet know this change, it has a rhythm of 5 to 6 sleep phases spread over day and night, in which he sleeps about 4 hours each. In most one-year-old toddlers, the number of sleep phases has decreased to 3, a longer night’s sleep with about 6 to 8 hours of sleep duration and 2 short sleep periods during the day. At 18 months, almost everyone sleeps only once a day and some can even do without a nap at 24 months. Again, however, there are strong differences from child to child.

Nightly sleep is extended on average from 8 hours after birth to almost 12 hours until the twelfth month of life, which means the entire night sleep time (not sleep through) with all interruptions. From the second year of life, with the total sleep requirement of the child, his night sleep time is reduced to just under 11 hours in the 6th century. Year of life. Here, as well as the information on daytime sleep, these are average values that can be different from child to child.

Average sleep needs of children

If there are problems with going to bed or getting up too early, or you’re not sure how much sleep your child actually needs, you can use a so-called sleep protocol . In it, you enter for two to three weeks when and how long your child sleeps. You should then definitely try to align your child’s bed times with their actual sleep needs. If less sleep is needed than before, the bedtime should be postponed accordingly. You can also try to shorten the afternoon nap.

Source: Oskar G. Jenni, Ivo Iglowstein, C. Benz, Remo H. Largo: Percentile curves for sleep duration in the first 16 years of life. pediatrics. prax. 63 481-489 (2003) Hans Marseille Verlag. Munich.

The question of napping will be answered by your child himself

When children stop taking a nap is individually very different. Quite a few still like to take a nap in the afternoon at the age of three. And even among the primary school children, there are some who still lie down at least occasionally in the afternoon. Some do not sleep at noon, but at least need a little rest, in which, for example, they lie down comfortably on the sofa and quietly look at a book or listen to a cassette. It is best if you are also guided by the personal needs of your child. Don’t force nap, but don’t cancel it either if your child shows clear signs of fatigue.

However, you should intervene to regulate if your child is not tired at bedtime in the evening. This could indicate that bedtimes, which were supposed to take place at night, are being shifted to the afternoon. Then you should shorten the afternoon nap or cancel it altogether so that your child can sleep better in the evening and sleep better at night.

The bedtime depends on sleep requirements and time to get up

The correct bedtime results from the time to get up minus your child’s personal sleep needs. That is, if a child regularly wakes up at 7:00 in the morning and needs about ten hours of sleep, then he should be in bed by 9:00 p.m. at the latest. If it takes a very long time to fall asleep, the bedtime should be set earlier. If your child regularly sleeps at noon, he needs less sleep at night. So it wakes up earlier in the morning or should be put to bed later. As with adults, “sleep types” can also be determined in children: The so-called “larks” easily get out of bed in the morning and feel in top shape, but get tired relatively early in the evening. “Owls” like to sleep long in the morning, but are hard to get into bed in the evening. Taking this predisposition of your child into account can help to avoid many a sleep problem .

In case of problems with bedtime, consistency is best helped

Especially in late infancy – but even afterwards – children often do not want to go to bed in the evening. Although they are tired, they just don’t want to end the day or are afraid of missing out. In order to avoid power struggles every evening, it makes sense to stick consistently with a once agreed bedtime. A clear closing word is often better than endless discussions. Of course, if the bedtimes are clearly regulated, an exception can also be made – on special occasions, for example, or if you yourself have the feeling that your child is simply not tired yet.

And the parents? From the right to an evening off …

As a parent, you finally want to have your peace and a little time for yourself or as a couple in the evening. A more than justified wish. However, if you only put your child to bed early for this reason and contrary to his sleep needs, this will at best cause you problems with falling asleep and staying asleep and almost certainly not a quiet evening. Younger children can be accustomed to earlier times of falling asleep, but then it is to be expected that they will be fit earlier in the morning. If your child can occupy himself alone for a while from about three years of age, you should try to find compromises together with him. Explain to him that you also need a little time for yourself. Agree, for example, that the last half hour or hour before the joint sleep ritual, he can paint something alone in his room, look at a book or pursue another quiet activity.

(Status: 13.08.2019) Source: The text of this site is, unless otherwise noted, copyrighted and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works License 3.0 Germany . Please note our instructions for use.

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