One of the most important things you can do for your children is to make sure they get enough sleep. "It's almost like another vaccine we can give our kids to help them fight off illness and promote physical well-being," says Cora Breuner, MD, of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
That doesn't just mean sending them to bed at a certain time, although that's a big part of it. You should also make sure your children fall asleep easily, stay asleep throughout the night, and wake up refreshed so they have energy to make healthy choices during the day.
How you do that will change as your kids get older. But remember that good slumber is essential at every age, and that it will help your kids grow, learn, and stay safe, whether they're 18 months old or 18 years old.
How much sleep does my child need?
It depends on their age and their stage of development, according to guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation:
- Newborns 0 to 3 months should sleep 10 1/2 to 18 hours a day, but they don't have a regular schedule. They may sleep from a few minutes to several hours at one time.
- Babies 4 to 11 months should start to sleep through the night, for 9 to 12 hours at a time. They should also take naps throughout the day, ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours.
- Toddlers 1 to 2 years need about 11 to 14 hours a day. Most of this should happen at night, but they should also take a nap (or naps) during the day.
- Children 3 to 5 should get 11 to 13 hours a night. Their naps should get shorter and happen less often. Most kids don't nap past age 5.
- Kids 6 to 13 need 9 to 11 hours of shuteye. Homework and electronic devices keep kids busy at this age, so it's important to set a sleep schedule and enforce a regular bedtime routine.
- Teenagers 14 and up need 8 to 10 hours of sleep. Their circadian rhythms shift around the time they hit puberty, so they may find it hard to fall asleep as early as they used to.