How much sleep do children need?

A child sleeping peacefully

It can be difficult to know how much sleep children need- especially when they don’t seem tired or resist going to bed!

Bedtime can be particularly difficult when kids are getting back into the swing of a new school term.

Having had a few weeks of no wake-up time and late nights, trying to get back to bedtimes for school can be tricky.

How many hours of sleep do children need?

The best way to set a bedtime is by knowing how much sleep kids need, depending on their age. When kids get enough sleep they will be well-rested enough to get the most out of the day, and their mood will be better- just like us adults!

Here's a guide as to how much sleep children need every day by age:

1-12 months old: 14-15 hours

1-3 years old: 12-14 hours

3-6 years old: 10-12 hours

7-12 years old: 10-11 hours

12-18 years old: 8-9 hours per day

A child sleeping

How can you settle your child better for sleep?

One of the main problems that parents are confronted with is a child who seems very awake, active and seemingly not ready for bed. A child who doesn’t seem tired enough for bed isn’t necessarily not needing sleep- in fact children can often get a little hyper as bedtime draws near! So, how can you relax your child and ready them for bedtime?

Creating a daily bedtime routine

Winding down in the evening is as important for kids as it is for adults. Having a set bedtime routine is a way to implement this. Children enjoy routines as they create a feeling of safety and comfort, which is particularly important before sleep.

For children up to age 10, a bedtime routine could include a bath, brushing their teeth, putting on pyjamas and reading a bedtime story. Children who are able to read themselves might still find it enjoyable to have a parent read their bedtime story with them rather than alone.

For children over 10 and into the teenage years a bedtime routine is still important, but can be made a little more age appropriate. An example might be having a shower and brushing their teeth, putting on something comfy, then watching half an hour of tv before going up to bed. It’s important for teens to still wind down for sleep, so removing devices such as phones and tablets half an hour before sleep is important (this could be a family rule). Teens can also read before bed- it's a great way to relax the mind.

As long as your child still wants to be tucked in at night, parents can oblige them. Teenagers need to feel loved as much as younger kids, so pop into their room to say I love you and have a hug before bed. Teens also sometimes like to have a chat about their day at bedtime, so be sure to make time for it. It can take young people some time after school to decompress from their day before they are ready to open up about their feelings or difficulties.

A mother reading a bedtime story to her two children as part of their bedtime routine.

The best bedtime snacks

Children and teens love to snack, and it’s helpful for their growing bodies to do so. However, there are certain foods that can negatively impact their ability to sleep.

Foods to avoid include:

- Sweets

- Sugary foods and drinks (including hot chocolate)

- Fatty foods

- Citrus fruits

Some foods actually aid sleep, though, so make these part of your child’s bedtime routine:

- Cherries

- Bananas

- Turkey

- Milk

- Toast

These options can be thought of as ‘sleepy foods’- snacks that help the body and mind drift off for the night.

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