At Penn State Health Children’s Hospital Pediatric Sleep Medicine, we teach children and their families about sleep problems, and how a good night’s sleep affects your overall health.
Here’s more information and healthy sleep tips for you and your family.
How much sleep is enough?
Brain development plays a role in sleep-wake cycles and how much sleep a person needs, but learned behavior and habits also matter. This is good news for parents, who can help their children develop healthy sleep habits. When creating sleep routines, keep these things in mind:
- Newborns up to 3 months will sleep between 16 to 20 hours in a 24-hour period, sleeping for 1 to 4 hours and waking for 1 to 2 hours.
- Depending on the baby, newborns will begin to tell the difference between day and night between 6 weeks and 3 months of age.
- A 4- to 5-month-old will sleep 14 or 15 hours each day, with up to 6 to 8 hours of continuous sleep.
- A 6- to 12-month-old will sleep 13 to 14 hours a day with two naps.
- Between 70% and 80% of 9-month-olds will sleep through the night.
- Toddlers sleep about 12 hours a day with usually one nap.
- Preschoolers, ages 3 to 6, sleep 10 or 11 hours each day. Naps decrease during this time and usually end around age 5 (or sooner in some children).
- School-age children need up to 10 hours of sleep.
- Teens should get 9 hours of sleep each night.
- Most adults should sleep 8 hours.
Healthy sleep tips for children
It's much easier to prevent a sleep problem than to treat one. Here are some tips to help your child set up life-long patterns of good sleep:
- Set a regular bedtime and stick to it. A good motto is “Sleep begets sleep.” Children who are well-rested sleep more restfully compared to children who are sleep deprived.
- Create a consistent bedtime routine, about 15-20 minutes long. This may include a warm bath or reading a story. Sleep routines should happen in the child’s bed or crib. They should also be easy and portable so you can repeat them when you’re away from home. Parents should avoid sleeping with the child or giving a bedtime bottle to keep the child from associating that with sleep.
- Make after-dinner playtime a relaxed. Too much activity close to bedtime can keep children awake.
- Avoid giving children caffeinated products, including cocoa, within six hours of bedtime.
- Keep the bedroom dark. If needed, use a small night light. Expose your child to natural sunlight soon after waking up in the morning.
- Keep the noise level low.
- Don't give in to requests for one more kiss or a tissue. This is a stall tactic. You need a firm, constant approach to avoid reinforcing the behavior. If your child needs to use the bathroom, don’t go with them. This limits more contact with you.
- Avoid naps during the day, except for younger children, who need naps.
- Exercise can promote good sleep, but not within two hours of bedtime.
- Avoid emotional conversations, watching TV that is exciting or scary, or playing electronic or computer games at least two hours before bedtime. It is important to keep all non-sleep activities out of the bed. (Avoid reading or watching TV in bed). Older kids and teens should leave their phones outside the bedroom.
- Keep the TV out of your child's bedroom.
- Talk with your child’s doctor about medicines that may affect your child's sleep. Ask for different medicines if needed.
- If your older child is having sleep problems, encourage them to keep a sleep diary to track how much they slept the night before and how they feel the next day. After one week, review the diary with your child and look for things that might be affecting the quality and quantity of sleep, such as watching TV, drinking something caffeinated or arguing with a sibling before bed.
- Teenagers should not change their bedtime and waking time by more than one hour on weekends or while on vacation.
- “Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems” by Richard Ferber, 2006
- “Sleeping Through the Night: How Infants, Toddlers, and Their Parents Can Get a Good Night's Sleep” by Jodi A. Mindell, 2005
- “Health Sleep Habits, Happy Child” by Marc Weissbluth, 2005
- “Take Charge of Your Child's Sleep: The All-in-One Resource for Solving Sleep Problems in Kids and Teens” by Judith A. Owens, Jodi A. Mindell, 2005
Sleep logs can help find possible causes of your child’s sleep problem.
- Intake packet Pediatric Sleep 0-3 Years (PDF)
- Intake packet Pediatric Sleep 4-12 Years (PDF)
- Intake packet pediatric sleep adolescent 13+ (PDF)
- Sleep Study Information (PDF)
If you have made every effort to help your child with his or her sleep problems and have not found a solution, talk to your child’s pediatrician or contact the Pediatric Sleep Clinic at 717-531-8520.