How much sleep does your baby or child really need?

The number of hours sleep children should get each night isn't actually clear, a new review suggests

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Modern children are getting fewer hours sleep than the recommended guidelines. But experts have suggested that this is because the guidelines aren’t always right.

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Just over 100 years ago, it was recommended that children sleep for an hour and 15 minutes more than in 2009. So why can modern children survive on 75 minutes less sleep a night than their Victorian counterparts?

The National Sleep Foundation in the USA has recommended that between the ages of 3 months and 11 months, babies should sleep for around 14-15 hours, toddlers aged 1 year to 3 years should get 12-14 hours and preschoolers between 11-13 hours.

However, a wider look at sleep studies over the last century revealed that children rarely get the recommended amount of sleep, suggesting it’s nothing to do with the busy pace of modern life.

“Indeed kids are sleeping less,” said the report’s senior author Tim Olds. “People are always recommending kids sleep more than they do.

“We think for no particularly good reason that kids need more sleep than they’re getting,” Tim added. “Every so often a group of blokes get together and say, ‘What do you recommend, boys?’ It’s an arbitrary public-health line in the sand that people draw.”

The research also found that children from different countries sleep different amounts, adding weight to the idea that, really, no one’s quite sure how much sleep is the right amount.

“We’re not saying kids don’t need more sleep,” said Tim. “My hunch is yes, they do need more sleep, but we haven’t seen good evidence of that.”

So if your child doesn’t seem to be able to clock up the recommended hours of sleep, don’t panic – the sleep experts don’t really know how much she needs anyway!

How much sleep is recommended for my child?

Don’t panic if your child doesn’t conform to the guidelines given below. This is intended as a useful guide only. 

Age

Hours of daytime sleep

Hours of night-time sleep

1 week
8
8.5

4 weeks
6.75
6.75

3 months
5
10

6 months
4
10

9 months
2.75
11.25

12 months
2.5
11.5

2 years
1.25
11.75

3 years
1 or 0
11 to 11.5

4 years
0
11.5

5 years
0
11

Adapted from Solving Children’s Sleep Problems by Lyn Quine

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