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How much sleep do children need?

There are no hard and fast rules about the exact number of hours of sleep children need at different ages. The NHS offers some broad recommendations developed by the private Millpond Children's Sleep Clinic:

1-4 weeks old: 15.5-16.5 hours per day

Newborns typically sleep in short periods of two to four hours. Premature babies may sleep longer and colicky ones shorter.

Since newborns do not yet have an internal biological clock, or circadian rhythm, their sleep patterns are not related to the daylight and night-time cycles. In fact, they tend not to have much of a pattern at all.

3 months old: 15 hours per day

By this time, your baby is beginning to settle down a bit, and you may notice more regular sleep patterns emerging. The longest periods of sleep run four to six hours and now tend to occur more regularly in the evening. Day-night confusion ends with around 5 hours in the day and 10 hours at night.

6 months old: 14 hours per day

Establishing healthy sleep habits is a primary goal during this period, as your baby is now much more social, and their sleep patterns are more adult-like.

Babies typically have three naps and drop to two at around six months old, at which time (or earlier) they are physically capable of sleeping through the night. Daytime naps will account for around 4 hours of sleep, with around 10 hours at night.

9 months old: 14 hours a day

The ratio of day to night time sleep moves more towards the night, with around 11.25 hours at night and 2.75 hours in the day.

1 year old: 14 hours per day

As your child moves past the first year towards, they will probably start to lose their morning nap and nap only once a day. While toddlers may need up to 14 hours a day of sleep, they typically get around 2.5 hours in the day and 11.5 at night.

3 years old: 12 hours per day

Children at this age typically go to bed between 7pm and 9pm and wake up around 6am or 8am, just as they did when they were younger. At three, most children are still napping for about an hour during the day, and getting 11 hours of sleep at night.

4 years old: 11.5 hours per day

The daytime naps will have ended and 11.5 hours of sleep at night are possible.

5-12 years old: 11-9.25 hours a night

As the child gets older, the night time hours of sleep will reduce slightly, as they tend to stay up later in the evening.

12-16 years old: 9.25-8.5 hours per night

Sleep needs remain just as vital to health and wellbeing for older children and teenagers as when they were younger. It turns out that many teenagers may actually need more sleep than in previous years. Now, however, social pressures conspire against getting the proper amount and quality of sleep.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on March 05, 2014

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