The Ultimate Guide to Healthy Sleep Time for Kids

Getting enough high-quality sleep is essential for your child’s growth, development, and overall health. Unfortunately, many kids don’t get the recommended amount of sleep for their age group. Read on to learn how much sleep children need at different ages, as well as tips for creating a bedtime routine that will help your child wind down and get the rest they need.

How Much Sleep Do Kids Really Need?

The number of hours of sleep kids need varies widely by age. While every child is different, there are general guidelines based on research that provide a good starting point. Here’s an overview of current sleep time recommendations for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, school-age children, and teens:

Infants (0-12 months)

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14 to 17 hours per day including naps. Newborns tend to sleep in short bursts round-the-clock.

  • Infants (4-12 months): 12 to 16 hours per day including naps. Infants this age are transitioning to a regular sleep-wake cycle and need 2 to 4 naps per day in addition to nighttime sleep.

Toddlers (1-2 years)

  • 11 to 14 hours per day including naps. Toddlers need 1 to 2 naps per day in addition to nighttime sleep. Naps tend to shorten as toddlers get closer to age 2.

Preschoolers (3-5 years)

  • 10 to 13 hours per day including naps. Many preschoolers take a nap lasting 1-3 hours. Total sleep needs decrease with age.

School-age (6-13 years)

  • 9 to 12 hours per day. Once kids start school, nap time ends but they still need plenty of nighttime sleep for optimal learning and health.

Teens (14-17 years)

  • 8 to 10 hours per day. Teens have later circadian rhythms so they tend to stay up later but still need around 9 hours of sleep.

Keep in mind these are general guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules. Some kids consistently need more or less sleep than their peers. The most important thing is watching for signs your child is not getting adequate rest.

Signs Your Child May Need More Sleep

How can you tell if your child isn’t getting sufficient sleep? Here are some common symptoms of sleep deprivation in kids:

  • Difficulty waking up in the morning
  • Falling asleep during the day
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Struggling with school work
  • Increased irritability, crankiness
  • Tantrums, whining, mood swings
  • Problems with learning and memory
  • Lack of motivation, lethargy
  • Increased risk of injuries and accidents

If you notice any of these issues, take a look at your child’s sleep schedule. Moving bedtime earlier by even 30 minutes can make a big difference! Establishing an evening routine is key to making sure your child gets enough restful sleep.

Creating a Bedtime Routine: Tips that Work

Implementing a consistent bedtime routine can ensure your child gets adequate sleep for healthy development. It also makes the end of the day easier for both kids and parents. Here are some tips for creating a bedtime routine that works:

Make sleep a family priority. Set a regular bedtime and wake-up time for your whole household. Follow this schedule on both weeknights and weekends to help regulate your child’s circadian rhythm.

Do the same relaxing activities in the same order each night. Aim for a routine with 3-4 steps maximum before lights out. Consistency is key in signaling to your child’s body that it’s time to unwind.

Start the bedtime routine 60-90 minutes before the target bedtime. Wind down activities should begin 1 to 1.5 hours before you want your child to be asleep. This gives their body time to relax.

Take the last 30 minutes screen-free. Turn off all electronics like TV, tablets, and smartphones 30 minutes prior to bed. The blue light from screens makes it harder to fall asleep.

Make the bedroom a sleep-only zone. Once kids are tucked in for the night, they should stay in bed. Use lights-out devices like the Hatch Rest to signal when it's time for sleeping versus waking.

Use positive reinforcement. Offer fun rewards like stickers or points on a chart for successfully following bedtime routine steps. Praise your child for staying in bed all night. This positive feedback makes good sleep habits more appealing.

Give a heads-up before bedtime. Provide a 30-minute warning so your child has time to finish activities and start winding down. A 10-minute reminder builds the anticipation that “bedtime is coming soon.” 

Talk and snuggle after lights-out. Lie down with your child after tucking them in. Chat about the day, express affection, say prayers, sing songs, or read one last story. This quality bonding time helps kids feel secure and relaxed.

Involve older kids in setting bedtimes. Have school-age kids and teens aim for bedtimes allowing them to get the recommended hours of sleep. Involve them in scheduling to build responsibility and commitment.

Adjust the routine as needed. Bedtime struggles can arise as children grow. Tweak activities and timing until you find a routine that works for your family now.

Bedtime Routine Activity Ideas

There are lots of great activities you can incorporate into a bedtime routine for kids. Mix and match these relaxing, screen-free ideas:

  • Stretching, light yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation

  • Picking out pajamas together

  • Reading books together

  • Telling stories or recapping the day’s events

  • Gentle massage with lotion or essential oils

  • Warm bath with bath toys or bath crayons

  • Brushing teeth

  • Singing lullabies or playing soft music

  • Snuggling with favorite stuffed animals or blankets

  • Coloring or drawing

  • Building with blocks or Lego bricks

  • Doing puzzles

  • Playing with “busy bags” filled with quiet toys like beads, playdough, or puzzles

  • Sorting by colors or counting objects

The key is choosing calming activities your child enjoys. Keep it simple, consistent and electronics-free. Your bedtime routine should be pleasant and relaxing, not a struggle each night.

Conclusion: Prioritize Sleep for Happy, Healthy Kids

Getting adequate sleep is vital for the growth, development and health of infants, children and teens. While sleep needs vary by age, most kids do best with a regular bedtime routine. Aim for an electronics-free wind-down period before lights out. Provide positive reinforcement for following a consistent schedule. Adjust activities as needed to find what works for your family’s sleep.

The effort you put into prioritizing sleep will pay off with kids who thrive during the day. They’ll be happier, healthier, less prone to accidents, and able to concentrate better in school. Sweet dreams!