How much sleep do babies and preschoolers need?

As we know, every child is unique and developmental milestones are rarely set in… well, stone! Children progress at different times in different ways, and just like potty training and eating habits, sleeping times and napping preferences can vary greatly from child to child.

With this in mind it can still be extremely helpful for parents to have a healthy range to work within, after all, sufficient sleep is vital for the healthy development of your little learner’s body and brain.

Is there a general guide to how much sleep my child needs?

Luckily the National Sleep Foundation offers some really useful recommendations based on the approximate amount of sleep needed for a child of a certain age to be fully rested:

Age Recommended May be appropriate Not recommended
0-3 months
14 – 17 hours 11 – 13 hours
18 – 19 hours
Less than 11 hours
More than 19 hours
4-11 months
12 – 15 hours 10 – 11 hours
16 – 18 hours
Less than 10 hours
More than 18 hours
1-2 years
11 – 14 hours 9 – 10 hours
15 – 16 hours
Less than 9 hours
More than 16 hours
3-5 years
10 – 13 hours 8 – 9 hours
14 hours
Less than 8 hours
More than 14 hours
6-13 years
9 – 11 hours 7 – 8 hours
12 hours
Less than 7 hours
More than 12 hours

Of course, very young infants do not usually do all this sleeping in one marathon, most babies will nap frequently throughout the day, waking to feed every 2-3 hours.

Older babies of 6-12 months usually nap at least twice, often morning and afternoon. These can range from 20-30 minutes to a few hours.

Most toddlers have a nap during the day, an hour or two is perfectly normal.

Pre-schoolers often start resisting naptime, and tend not to need it, especially once they reach the age of 3. Naps are generally not needed at all by the age of 5.

There is certain research to suggest that regular napping after the age of 2 is linked to a poorer quality of night-time sleep, or difficulty falling asleep at bedtime. However, sleep and sleeping patterns are very individualised and closely linked to the general household routine. Different regimes work for different families and naptime definitely needs an open-minded and flexible approach.

As your child grows and gradually needs less sleep there will no doubt be some trial and error. If your little one is cranky and irritable, falling asleep in their dinner or comatose in the car seat, then chances are they need more naptime or night-time sleep. If your child is focused and energetic all day, they can probably lose any naps and fulfil their sleep quota during the night. It is also worth remembering that hyperactivity can be a sign of overtiredness.

At Cherry Bridge Station Early Learning and Childcare we cater for children from just 6 weeks of age until they are school-ready at the age of 5. We know that the sleeping patterns and naptimes in our centres must be flexible to allow for every little one’s individual needs and routines.