Sleep is very important for children’s growth and development. The amount of sleep needed generally varies with age. Here’s information on how much sleep is enough for the child and how you should respond to cries and the midnight waking.
Up to 6 months
Newborns infants sleep for up to 18 hours per day but should be wakened every 3 or 4 hours within the first few weeks. Afterwards, they can sleep up to about 5 hours between feedings. At 3 months of age, they can sleep for 8 or 9 hours per night with a few interruptions and have 2 or 3 naps during the day.
It is common for babies this age to make sounds in light sleep or wake up and cry for a short while then fall right back to sleep. If however the crying continues, respond since he/she could be truly uncomfortable or sick. For nighttime diaper changes, you should change them as quickly as possible and avoid providing stimulation unnecessarily.
The ideal practice for this age group is to place the child in the crib before he/she sleeps. You should also develop a bedtime routine that the baby will link to sleeping.
6 to 12 months
During this period, babies still need about 14 hours of sleep with 2 or 3 daytime naps per day. Most no longer need midnight feeding. Separation anxiety also sets in.
If you don’t suspect hunger to be the cause of nighttime sleep disturbance, you should wait a while for the child to settle down. If he/she doesn’t go back to sleep, you may need to provide comfort but if the baby is not sick, provide comfort without picking him up. Try rubbing the back and talking softly but don’t turn on the lights or play with him/her. Encourage your child to fall asleep on his/her own.
This group of toddlers requires between 12 and 14 hours of sleep a day but separation anxiety and plain refusal can keep a child this age from falling asleep. Teething and nightmares are also common causes of nighttime waking.
Set regular nap and bed times and establish a relatively short and uncomplicated bedtime routine to help the child fall asleep. During the day, schedule quiet time to encourage the child to nap but don’t force him/her to sleep. Note also that keeping your child up during daytime doesn’t guarantee undisturbed sleep at night.
You should also control what your child watches before bedtime because it cause nightmares. If he/she wakes up due to a nightmare, hold and comfort the child until he/she is calm.
Preschoolers to preteens
Preschool kids require about 11 to 12 hours of sleep each night without daytime naps. School-age kids need anywhere between 10 and 11 hours sleep a night. They also tend to experience sleep problems mostly due to hectic family schedules, after-school activities, TV and technology devices. To ensure they sleep enough, maintain a consistent bedtime that allows enough time, without technology, before bed.
Teens require roughly 9 hours of sleep each night though this is often shortened by factors like tight schedules, homework, technology and other factors. Ensure they sleep on time and try to discourage the habit of catching up on sleep during weekends.
Regardless of age, establish a routine with a provision for winding-down time and ensure that your kids observe bedtimes. Encourage older kids to maintain a bedtime that gives them the full hours of sleep needed.