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Children & Sleep FAQs
Q: My child’s sleep pattern is so different from mine. Why is that?
A: Infant and child sleep differs greatly from that of adults and the cause is primarily “in their heads.” Your child is developing in many areas and sleep is no exception. The typical patterns of sleep seen throughout infancy and childhood are a result of brain development.
Normal infant sleep pattern includes more total sleep over 24 hours than in adults, as well as frequent sleep and wake periods, and waking at night. With development throughout infancy, total sleep time decreases, sleep periods increase in length, napping is reduced and sleep becomes concentrated in the nighttime.
Throughout childhood children need more sleep time than their parents, and during adolescence teens not only need more sleep time but also their natural preferred sleep hours occur later in the night, making early morning waking difficult.
Q: Is my infant or child getting enough sleep?
A: There are wide differences in sleep needs with children. However, in general, the following recommendations for daily sleep across age groups have been established (National Sleep Foundation):
- 1-3 years 12-14 hours
- 3-5 years 11-13 hours
- 5-12 years 10-11 hours
- 12-17 years 9 hours
Additionally, the behavior of babies or children can indicate if they are receiving adequate sleep. Does your child wake in the morning refreshed and in a good mood? Is your child sleepy during daytime activities? Is your child often irritable? Inadequate sleep is a common part of many behavioral problems.
Q: Am I getting enough sleep?
A: The pressures of work and family lead many adults to short change their sleep needs. Although there are differences across individuals, adults need roughly 7 ½ hours of sleep each night. Common problems related to inadequate sleep include difficulty concentrating, feeling fatigued, depressed mood, overeating and lacking energy for daily activities.
Q: How can I help my infant or child to sleep better?
A: The sleep patterns of babies and children change as they grow. However, across all ages of children, there are specific actions parents can take to improve their child’s (and their own) sleep.
First, “Get to bed!” Respect the need for sleep and be sure adequate time for sleep is allowed. This often means adapting bedtimes to fit the time the child must get up in the morning. Value sleep in your family; avoid making commitments or taking part in activities that interfere with adequate sleep.
Second, create a clean, safe, secure, low-stimulation sleeping environment. Reduce clutter and chaos in the bedroom. Never use sleep as a punishment.
Third, practice evening routines that include “turning down the house,” gradually reducing activity, reducing lighting and preparing for bedtime. Limit TV and other media before bedtime. Bathing, putting on pajamas, tooth brushing and reading books can help establish bedtime routines. Take a few quiet moments to talk about the day that is ending and plans for tomorrow.
Fourth, keep lights off at night. If a nightlight is used, the light level should be no brighter than a standard Christmas tree bulb.