Kids and Sleep: Hours, Factors and Guide

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Kids need more hours of sleep than adults because they are in a period of significant mental and physical development. Sleep is an important part of physical and cognitive well-being, and the additional shuteye helps them grow into healthy adults. Furthermore, quality rest can help kids excel socially and academically. Good sleep is linked to improved learning skills, happier moods, and more physical energy.

When kids sleep, they produce a growth hormone important for their development. However, a lack of rest can affect the release of this vital hormone.

The sleep need for kids varies by age. Infants need the most hours of sleep, and the number of hours required gradually decreases as kids grow. For example, babies need 12-16 hours of sleep, but school-aged children should sleep for 9-12 hours per day.

Additionally, children's sleep patterns change as they move from infancy to their teen years. Infants nap the most, while toddlers and young children take one nap per day. Eventually, school-age children transition out of needing daytime naps because they do not need as much rest.

Parents can play a vital role in ensuring children get adequate rest by keeping them on a healthy sleep schedule from infancy through adolescence. Additionally, a quality bed and comfortable sleep environment can help promote better rest.

How Many Hours of Sleep do Kids Need?

The amount of sleep kids need depends on their age. Babies need the most at 12-16 hours. Children ages 1-2 should get 11-14 hours. Kids aged 3-5 need 10-13 hours. Children between the ages of 6 and 9 need 9-12 hours of shuteye, and teens require 8-10 hours. For children age 5 and younger, this amount includes naps.

Kids’ sleep durations reflect the high development their bodies and brains are experiencing. Babies grow at the fastest rate and therefore require the most rest. As children grow, the amount of rest they need gradually declines. However, these numbers are still more than what adults need. When a person reaches adulthood, they need 7-9 hours of rest.

Kids who are recovering from illness or premature infants will require more rest. Additionally, some kids may develop sleeping disorders such as narcolepsy, which can cause them to feel more tired than usual. Lastly, some research suggests that girls need slightly more sleep than boys.

Illustrations of a Boy from Baby to Teen Age

How Does Age Affect Kids' Sleep Needs?

Kids’ sleep needs change according to age. These needs are based on the amount of physical or mental development they undergo at each stage. The amount of rest they need slowly decreases as they get older.

A child’s brain develops the most and fastest during those early years. Therefore, babies and young children need extra sleep for their brains to develop properly. However, as they continue to grow, they experience more of a shift from significant brain development to physical growth.

During childhood, the pituitary gland releases what is known as the growth hormone (HGH). This hormone helps prompt physical changes that include height, bones, and muscles. HGH levels increase with age and peak during the puberty stage.

Research has shown that sleep plays an important role in the secretion of the growth hormone. As a result, inadequate sleep could diminish the amount of growth hormone present in children and adolescents, affecting their physical growth. So, although older children may need fewer hours of shuteye than younger kids, sleep is still vital for their development.

Sleep Needs by Age

How Much Sleep Does a 5-Year-Old Need?

A 5-year-old needs 11-14 hours of sleep. Many kids at this age are entering Kindergarten for the first time and are actively learning lots of new information. Therefore, they need rest to help them process what they learn.

If they don’t get enough sleep, this could negatively affect their learning abilities and social skills. For example, a 2017 study published in Behavioral Health and Concerns found that kids who were sleep-deprived at the ages of 3-4 showed worse neurobehavioral function at age 7. Neurobehavior function refers to how the brain affects learning, behavior, and emotion.

How Much Sleep Does an 8-Year-Old Need?

An 8-year-old needs 9-12 hours of sleep. During this age, kids experience a significant increase in muscle coordination. They also see a significant growth spurt and jump in their body weight.

However, a lack of sleep could affect their growth. When children sleep, their body releases an important growth hormone. If they’re not sleeping enough, though, this can reduce the amount of that growth hormone in their body. As a result, they may see a decrease in their height, bone growth, and muscle mass.

How Much Sleep Does a 9-Year-Old Need?

A 9-year-old needs 9-12 hours of sleep. 9-year-olds will continue to see an increase in large muscle development and coordination. They are also very active and will likely be interested in physical activities such as group sports. However, if they do not get enough sleep, they may not have as much energy, hindering their physical performance.

They are also likely working in group projects at school during this age. Group projects provide a great opportunity for building social skills. However, insufficient rest can negatively affect their mood, resulting in poorer relationships among their peers.

How Much Sleep Does a 10-Year-Old Need?

A 10-year-old needs 9-12 hours of sleep. Sleeping is important for school-aged kids because it supports their cognitive function. Children at this age are in school full-time and learning lots of new information. Therefore, they need sleep to help their learning capabilities, including concentration and processing information.

If they don’t get enough sleep, this could make learning more difficult and negatively impact their academic performance. Furthermore, sleep deprivation can worsen their mood and hinder important social skills they are building during this time.

Illustration of a Group of Students in Class

How Much Sleep Does an 11-Year-Old Need?

An 11-year-old needs 9-12 hours of sleep. Children at this age are likely entering middle school for the first time. As a result, they will experience more intense learning and social scenarios. As a result, they need good sleep to further support them as they navigate their academic and social lives.

How Much Sleep Should a 12-Year-Old Get?

A 12-year-old should get 9-12 hours of sleep. Boys and girls at this age are likely starting to experience the early stages of puberty. As a result, you may notice changes in your child’s sleeping habits.

Kids at this age may begin feeling tired later at night, which is a natural shift known as ‘sleep phase delay.’ However, they still require extra sleep compared to adults. Therefore, parents and guardians must ensure their 12-year old continues to get enough rest by keeping a set sleep schedule.

Illustration of a College Boy Reading a Book In His Dorm Room

When Should a Child Go to Bed According to Age?

Here you can see the table of what time 1-12 year old kids should go to bed.

Wake-Up Time:5:00 a.m.6:00 a.m.7:00 a.m.
0-15:00 p.m.6:00 p.m.7:00 p.m.
1-25:00 p.m.6:00 p.m.7:00 p.m.
2-36:00 p.m.7:00 p.m.8:00 p.m.
3-57:00 p.m.8:00 p.m.9:00 p.m.
6-128:00 p.m.9:00 p.m.10:00 p.m.

To determine the bedtime for kids, you have to first look at how much sleep they need for their age. For example, if your child is 7, they should get 9-12 hours of sleep each day. Next, you’ll need to determine what their wake-up time is.

Once you have their desired wake-up time, you can select a bedtime that’s at least 9 hours ahead of that. For example, if your 5-year old’s wake-up time is 6:00 a.m., they should go to bed by 9:00 p.m. at the latest. However, if you notice your child is still sleepy in the mornings, consider establishing a slightly earlier bedtime to see if that helps.

The recommended sleep durations for children are based on the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines. The AAP established a 13-person panel of sleep experts and researchers to create these guidelines. First, they researched scientific data correlating specific health categories with sleep duration. After their research, the panel came together to create a sleep duration guideline for children that promotes optimal health.

How to Create a Child Sleep Chart

A child sleep chart is a helpful guide for parents to ensure their child gets enough sleep throughout the years. The following is an instructional list on creating a child sleep chart.

  1. Divide the chart into age groups: Sleep needs are determined by age group, so divide the chart according to that. The first age group will be 0-1, then 1-2, 3-5, and 6-12.

  2. Write down the total sleep needed: Next to each age group, write the total amount of sleep required. Remember that for kids 5 and younger, this will include time napping.

  3. Write down nighttime sleep hours: Below the total sleep, you will put a category for the number of hours spent sleeping overnight, which is the longest. For example, if your child is 1, they need 11-14 hours of sleep. Therefore, you can aim for 11 hours of sleep overnight for your sleep chart.

  4. Write down napping sleep hours: Lastly, you will set aside the number of hours spent napping and how many naps you plan to do. For example, if your 1-year old will get that extra 3 hours of sleep napping, you may divide that time up into two 1.5-hour naps.
Age GroupTotal Sleep TimeNighttime SleepNapping
0-112-16 hours12 hours4 hours (2-3 naps)
1-211-14 hours11 hours3 hours (2 naps)
3-510-13 hours10 hours1 hour (1 nap)
6-129-12 hours9 hours0 hours

When creating a sleep chart, it’s important to remember that planning your child’s sleep schedule is also a very individual process. While they should get within a certain range of sleep, some kids may feel better with more or less rest in that range. For instance, if your 1-year old doesn’t need the full 14 hours of sleep, you can adjust their nighttime and napping schedule accordingly.

Does a Child Sleep Chart Improve Kids’ Sleep Schedules?

Yes, a child sleep chart should improve kids’ sleep schedules. Kids’ sleep needs will change a lot from the time they’re an infant until they reach adolescence. Using a chart is a great way to keep everything in order.

Just as kids need a sleep schedule, it’s important for parents to set one and help their kids follow it. A child sleep chart not only ensures they get enough hours of rest, but the routine should improve their sleep quality.

How to Understand If My Child Isn't Getting Enough Sleep?

The ways to understand if your child isn’t sleeping enough are repeatedly waking them up, the child saying they’re tired during the day, they’re older but still nap, sleeping more on the weekends, trouble concentrating, and performing worse in school. The following list explains more about the signs to know if your child isn’t getting enough sleep.

  1. You have to repeatedly wake them up: If you notice you have to wake up your kids several times before they finally get out of bed, this could be a sign they still need more rest.

  2. They say they’re tired during the day: A more obvious sign that your child is sleep deprived is that they’ll express that to you directly.

  3. They take afternoon naps: While it is normal for babies and young children to nap, most children phase out napping once they reach school age. Therefore, if your school-aged child or teen needs an afternoon nap, there’s a good chance they aren’t sleeping enough.

  4. They sleep more on the weekends: Kids who aren’t sleeping enough may try to catch up on their sleep over the weekend.

  5. They have trouble concentrating: If you notice your child struggles to focus, it could be a symptom of sleep deprivation. As with adults, kids have difficulty focusing when they don’t get adequate rest.

  6. They’re doing worse in school: Another repercussion of poor concentration skills due to lack of sleep is that your child’s academic performance may suffer. If you notice a drop in their school performance, consider checking in with their teacher and adjusting their sleep schedule accordingly.
Child fell asleep during breakfast

What Helps Kids Get Better Sleep?

The ways to help kids get better sleep include setting a sleep schedule, establishing a bedtime routine, cutting off screen devices for bed, avoiding caffeinated or sugary drinks, and engaging in daily exercise. The following list provides more details on these tips for better sleep.

  1. Set a Sleep Schedule: Setting a sleep schedule is one of the best ways to help ensure your child sleeps better. Several factors will determine the schedule, such as the child’s age, how many hours of sleep they need, and wake-up time.

    If your child starts school soon and needs to wake up earlier, adjust their sleep schedule before the school year starts. Getting them used to their new sleep schedule should help them sleep better and wake up easier.

  2. Establish a Bedtime Routine: Establishing a bedtime routine can help your child feel more relaxed and ready for bed. Good bedtime routines for kids might include brushing their teeth, taking a bath, and reading a book. Furthermore, if they are experiencing nightmares, reading a book can also help their mind focus on more positive images and topics before bed.

  3. Cut Off Electronic Devices Before Bed: Kids’ access to electronic screen devices such as iPads and smartphones should be cut off at least an hour before their scheduled bedtime. The reason for this is that these devices suppress the production of the melatonin hormone, which helps promote sleep. As a result, they will feel more awake instead of sleepy.

  4. Avoid Caffeine and Sugary Beverages: In general, experts say kids shouldn’t consume too much caffeine or sugar. However, this is especially true when it comes to sleeping better. Consuming a sugar-filled drink close to bedtime can skyrocket their energy levels, making it harder for them to fall asleep. These beverages can also lead to nighttime accidents – consider getting a mattress protector.

  5. Daytime Exercise: Physical activity is not only good for kids’ health, but it can also improve their sleep. Research has found that active children typically fall asleep faster and have better sleep quality than those who aren’t as active.
A Boy Having Bedtime Routine Illustration

What Are the Factors Affecting Kids’ Sleep?

The factors that affect kids’ sleep include genetics, sleep habits, medical issues, parents and guardians, screen devices, and environment. The following list describes these factors in more detail.

  1. Genetics: Genetics may influence how well a child sleeps. A 2011 study titled Genetic and Environmental Influences on Sleep Problems: A Study of Preadolescent and Adolescent Twins found that genetics played a bigger role in sleep problems during the preschool and school-age years. However, they found that the environment was a bigger influence during adolescence.

    Research suggests several sleep issues may be partly linked to genetics, including insomnia. A 2018 study led by Murray Stein found that Insomnia was tied to several variants on chromosome 7.

  2. Sleep Habits: Sleep habits can affect rest. For example, if your child does not keep a consistent bedtime and wake-up time, they have more trouble falling asleep and getting enough shuteye. We recommend establishing a bedtime ritual to help kids prepare for bed.

  3. Medical Issues: Medical issues can also come between your child and a good night’s rest. Kids who have experienced an injury or chronic illness may have more difficulty falling or staying asleep. Furthermore, some children may develop sleeping disorders that can affect their quality of rest.

  4. Parents and Guardians: Parents and guardians also have a major influence on kids’ sleep because they are the ones enforcing the rules. A child won’t have the responsibility to follow a sleep schedule. Therefore, it’s the parents’ job to ensure they go to bed and wake up on time.

  5. Screen Devices: Screen devices can impact sleep because they can delay sleep onset. Cell phones, computers, and iPads emit a blue light that suppresses melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that helps foster sleepiness and is released naturally when nighttime rolls around. However, blue light can delay this process, leaving your child feeling more awake at night.

  6. Environment: Environment also influences sleep, particularly as kids grow older. While young children may fall asleep anywhere, adolescents may start needing a more comfortable environment for sleeping. Experts suggest the best space for quality shuteye somewhere dark, quiet, and cool.
mum is dressing a baby for sleep illustration

Does Mattress Quality Affect Kids’ Sleep?

Yes, mattress quality affects kids’ sleep. If a mattress is uncomfortable or doesn’t accommodate their growing frame, this could make it harder for your child to sleep well.

Our sleep and mattress experts have compiled reviews of the best mattresses for kids and the best beds for teens.

A few aspects to consider include:

  • Sleeper type (back sleeper, side sleeper, stomach sleeper)
  • Type of bed

Can Music Help Kids’ Sleep Quality?

Yes, music can help kids’ sleep quality. Calming melodies and lullabies are a popular method to help babies and young children fall asleep. Music provides a way for your child to relax, which helps them feel more tired and ready for sleep.

Music can help in other ways too. For example, a research team conducted an experiment at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital. They played music to 37 pediatric patients and found that their heart rates and pain levels dropped while listening to the relaxing melodies.

mother wakes up baby according to schedule illustration

How to Diagnose Child Sleep Anxiety

Child sleep anxiety is a term for when kids experience stress or fear about going to sleep. The following is a list of instructions on how to diagnose child sleep anxiety.

  1. Look at the emotional symptoms: Kids with sleep anxiety may show emotional symptoms such as feeling overwhelmed, irritability, nervousness, restlessness, trouble focusing, and feelings of danger.

  2. Look at the physical symptoms: Physical signs associated with sleep anxiety include digestive issues, increased heart rate, faster breathing, sweating, muscle tension, and trembling.

  3. Doctor evaluation: If you notice physical and emotional signs of sleep anxiety, you should consult with your child’s doctor. The physician will likely conduct an evaluation in which they do a physical exam and ask questions about your child’s sleeping habits.

  4. Sleep study: Sometimes, your child’s physician may recommend a sleep study to determine if they have a sleep disorder. During a sleep study, the specialist will analyze your child’s physical factors while they sleep. They will look at different categories such as eye and leg movements, breathing, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, brain activity, sleep stages, and possible snoring.

The good news is that parents can help children experiencing sleep anxiety. One of the easiest solutions is to stick to a good sleep schedule and establish a calming nightly routine. If the problem persists, parents may consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), or a doctor may prescribe medication.

Illustration of a Parent Removing Wet Mattress Pad from Their Baby's Mattress

Jill Zwarensteyn is the editor for Sleep Advisor and a certified sleep science coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.

Based in Los Angeles, she is an experienced writer and journalist who enjoys spending her free time at the beach, hiking, reading, or exploring new places around town.

She’s also an avid traveler who has a personal goal of being able to successfully sleep on an airplane someday.

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