Sound Sleep

Mar 2, 2020, 16:36 PM by UTMB Pediatrics


Sleep is important for children (or for that matter, for everyone).  Concerns about bedtime and sleep are common topics of concern and family conflict.  Many children and adults do not get enough sleep to allow them to function optimally the next day.

Children and adult all cycle from light to deep sleep several times during the night.  A very young infant may have a sleep cycle of only 30-60 minutes.  Parents who understand that the frequent nighttime awakenings of infants are normal may be much better able to tolerate their own fatigue.   Older children and adults cycle through the various stages of sleep about every 90-minutes.  Children and adults may awaken fully on that schedule if their environment is not conducive to sleep.   The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has published expected ranges for sleep at various ages. (total hours including naps).

Infants 4 months to 12 months usually sleep 12 to 16 hours each 24-hour day.  By 3-6 months they may nap for 2 hr stretches, and sleep in longer stretches at night.  By 6-9 months a good 6-hour stretch is common.

Children 1-2 years need 11-14 hours per day.  By 3-5 years they sleep 10-13 hours.  They may resist falling asleep because they love time playing with their parents, and because there is so much exciting “stuff” to explore in their world.  A regular bedtime routine can be very important at this age.

By 6-12 children need 9 hours of sleep.  Teens may need just a bit more, ranging from 8-10 hours. 

Poor sleep in infants and young children can be a source of significant family discord.  Try to be flattered that your child loves to have time with you!  The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests regular routine:  Bath, Book, Bed.  If you get angry at your child they may become irritable or upset, and have even more difficulty falling asleep!  Here are some tips for all ages:

  • Monitor screen time: AAP recommends that all screens (TV, laptops, tablets, mobile phones) be off at least 1-hour prior bedtime. Screen time just before sleeping stimulates the children and that can make it harder to fall asleep.
  • Ensure activity during the day:  Regular exercise and activity during the day will help the children feel tired and fall asleep.  Sleep quality is also improved.   
  • Relax before bedtime: Reading to children prior bedtime or having older children read to themselves before bedtime is a good way to wind down. 
  • Avoiding putting babies to sleep with formula, milk or juice: They will learn to suck in order to relax, and they will look for that cue as they approach light sleep during the night.  In addition, teeth should be cleaned just before sleep to avoid cavities, and it is disruptive to do that during the night! 
  • Beds are only for sleep.  Do not use the bed for time-out punishment, and limit toys in bed so they won’t be tempted to play.
  • Talk to your child's pediatrician about snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, inability to fall asleep or maintain sleep.

Blog written by:
Karunua Jayasimha, M.D., Resident Pgl-2 - Pediatrics
Patricia Beach, M.D., Professor - General Pediatrics

March 2, 2020

Also see:  

For more information consult the AAP Parent Resource at or from the National Library of Medicine.

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