How Much Sleep Do Babies Need Based on Age?

Sleep Needs and Patterns Change as Babies Grow

Newborn babies normally have higher sleep needs
Newborn babies normally have higher sleep needs. Getty Images

Whether you have a newborn or an older child, you might question: How much sleep do babies normally need based on age? Especially if you are sleep deprived, it is normal to wonder if the baby is getting enough sleep or even sleeping normally. Learn about the sleep needs of babies from 1 week to 1 year and discover if your baby is sleeping the right amount.

Sleep Patterns and Sleep Needs for Babies

The fortunate thing for parents if that you don't have to worry about your baby getting enough sleep.

The body will induce sleep when it is needed, just like hunger provokes crying and appetite for feeding. Luckily, babies will sleep as much as they need to, but as a parent, it may help you to understand typical sleep patterns and average sleep needs to guide your expectations.

Newborn infants normally sleep in a fragmented fashion in periods lasting 2 to 5 hours, occurring throughout the day and night. These newborns will typically awaken for 1 to 3 hours when they desire to feed. This can disturb the sleep of caregivers. By 8 to 12 weeks of age, these rather short sleep periods become consolidated and more sleep occurs at night. What a relief to parents when it comes!

Thankfully for sleep-deprived parents, most babies begin to sleep for 8-hour periods at night by the age of 4 to 6 months. This nighttime sleep may be disrupted by awakenings that might occur 5 or 6 times. (Often, it is necessary to allow children to fall back asleep on their own when this occurs, rather than provoking sleep-onset behavioral insomnia by always comforting them back to sleep.) They will continue to nap during the day for 2 to 4 hours, and these naps are usually consolidated to several periods.

By 12 months, your child will sleep for eight hours at night and still nap one or two times per day. These naps may shorten, only lasting 1 to 2 hours. Some children do not nap easily and most children stop taking naps by the age of 4 to 5 years, about the time preschool starts.

Charting Average Sleep Needs for Infants and Young Children

Total sleep needs can vary based on your child's individual sleep needs, but the following averages can be used as a rule of thumb:

  • 1 week: >16 hours (periods both day and night)
  • 1 month: >15 hours (periods both day and night)
  • 3 months: 15 hours (mostly at night with multiple naps)
  • 6 months: >14 hours (mostly at night with several consolidated naps)
  • 9 months: 14 hours (mostly at night with several consolidated naps)
  • 1 year: >13 1/2 hours (mostly at night with several consolidated naps)

It is normal for some variation to occur. Your child will sleep as much as he or she needs to and you don't need to worry about their sleep at this age.

As your baby continues to grow and develop, his or her sleep needs will continue to change as well. It can be helpful to develop a good bedtime routine, such as reading and avoiding electronics. This can ease the child into sleep and promote healthy sleep habits during childhood to lay a foundation that can persist throughout life.

If you are concerned about your child's sleep, speak with your pediatrician about ways to improve sleep in infants. If chronic snoring is present, this may require further evaluation and treatment.

Source:

Durmer, JS et al. "Pediatric Sleep Medicine". Continuum. Neurol 2007; 13(3):153-200.

Continue Reading