How Much Sleep Do We Actually Need?

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This week our contributing writer Jillian Dowling talks about the amount of sleep we need at each age.

Sleep is such an important part of our lives and we all know what it feels like to not get enough. Although children are different in many ways, the amount of sleep they require in a 24 hour period is really based on the age and sometimes weight of the child.

It can be difficult to set your child up for healthy sleep if you don’t know how much sleep your child actually needs. There are occasionally other factors that would influence the amount of sleep your child requires but for healthy, full term babies and children the amount is pretty standard.

For Newborn Babies – There are many things you can do to create healthy sleep habits for your child but in the first few months you just have to make the best of it. Your child will only be awake for about one hour at a time before it is time for a nap so this leads to multiple naps during the day. Your child still needs to be fed during the night so you have to hang in there until they are big enough to be ready to sleep through the night. You can expect your child to sleep about 16-18 hours per day.

For Babies 4-6 Months – By this age your child will be having more organized and consolidated sleep. They will be able to stay awake for longer periods of time and also sleep for longer periods of time. They may be ready to sleep twelve hour periods at night depending on the size and birth history of the child. Some may sleep twelve hours with a feed during the night. With a three nap a day schedule they will be having about 15 hours of sleep per day with 3-4 hours being day time sleep.

For Babies 7-14 Months – At this age they are ready to sleep a full twelve hours at night without waking to be fed. A consolidated twelve hour sleep with the support of two naps during the day will help your child feel happy and energized. Not to mention how great mom and dad will feel. A total of about 14 hours per day can be expected with about 3-4 hours being day time sleep.

For Toddlers 15 Months – 3 Yrs – Your child will continue to sleep 11-12 hours during the night and sleep about an hour and a half during the day. Your child should be sleeping about 12-13 hours per day.

3 -8 Yrs – Once your child is around 3 years old they will likely be ready to drop the afternoon nap altogether. This can often be the case as young as 2.5 yrs old or after the third birthday but this is a good guideline. They still require an early bedtime and about 11-12 hours of sleep at night.

9-13 Yrs – Although children may start to live busier lives, they still need to get adequate sleep.  This is often when children really start to struggle with sleep loss due to active schedules but they do still need between 9 – 11 hours of sleep per night.

14-19 Yrs – Teenagers get a bad rap because it seems like they are sleeping all the time.  The truth is, they have a very different cyrcadian rhythm than adults do, but we tend to think of them as adults.  They are natural night owls, which means they naturally feel tired later than we do.  And they require more sleep than we do so to balance this out they need to sleep a little later in the morning.  Unfortunately, our society doesn’t provide much support for these young people who still need to get 8-10 hours of sleep each night.  About 80% in North America are not even coming close to getting that much sleep!

20 + Yrs – Adults need about 7-9 hours of sleep per night.  Many people report that they do just fine on only 5-6 hours.  I bet if they let themselves sleep a little longer they would feel so much better!

Knowing how much sleep you need is the first step to making healthy changes to get better sleep.  Sleep is as important as healthy food so do your body a favour and nourish it well!

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