June 17, 2016
Sleep, or a lack thereof, is one of the most difficult challenges in early parenthood. Unfortunately, babies are not born with the ability to sleep throughout the night, so nighttime disturbance is inevitable. Indeed, a lack of quality sleep is a major factor contributing to postnatal depression as well as marital strife. To make matters worse, approximately 20 percent of children experience problems with sleeping, feeding and/or excessive crying (collectively known as regulatory problems) within the first year of life. So it’s easy to see why sleep is a major issue for many parents and childcarers. But how much sleep do children actually need in order to thrive and grow, and how does this change throughout childhood? A recent study, by the National Sleep Foundation, attempts to shed some light.
In order to determine how much sleep we need, the National Sleep Foundation convened a panel of 18 experts to consider the available data. Using quantitative techniques, as well as a systematic review of the literature, the panel came up with the following recommendations:
May be appropriate (hours)
Not recommended (hours)
|Newborns (0-3 months)|
|Infants (4-11 months)|
|Toddlers (1-2 years)|
|Preschool (3-5 years)|
|School (6-13 years)|
|Teens (14-17 years)|
As you might expect, the amount of sleep that experts recommend for children changes dramatically throughout childhood: from 14 to 17 hours a day, for newborns, to 8 to 10 hours a day for teenagers. The recommended sleep duration also varies considerably within each of the six different age categories for children. For example, toddlers are recommended to sleep for between 11-14 hours a day: with less than 9 hours and greater than 16 hours considered to be “Not Recommended”.
Given the approximate nature of these recommendations, how do parents and carers know if their children are actually getting enough sleep? Well, in short, they don’t: as every child is different—which applies as much to sleep as does to anything else in life. However, in the case of pronounced sleeping problems (i.e. sleeping durations that consistently fall within the Not Recommended column on the above table), it seems that early intervention can be helpful: since long term sleeping problems are often more difficult to resolve. However, it is also important that parents of young children don’t act too early: as all newborns and infants generally require at least six months to adjust to a nocturnal sleeping pattern—particularly if they are breast fed. Therefore, until that time (and probably way beyond it!), disturbed nights are all part of the joy of parenthood!
For further information on sleep, please visit the Harmony at Home maternity services webpage. For parents who require additional support, we also present night nannies and maternity nurses, of the highest standard, to suit all individual needs.
Rob Hodgkison, Harmony at Home Limited. All Rights Reserved, 2016
Hirshkowitz, Max et al. 2015. National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health,Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages 40–43