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Sleep Requirements in Children and Good Sleep Hygiene and Practices

Sleep Requirements in Children
Good Sleep Hygiene and Practices
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KK Women's and Children's Hospital
Contributed by Respiratory Medicine Services

Sleep Requirements in Infants and Children

Sleep architecture (the pattern and proportion of the different sleep stages during sleep) and sleep requirements evolve with the development and maturation of the central nervous system as a child progresses from infancy through childhood and adolescence, to adulthood.

Newborns spend an average of 14 to 17 hours in a 24-hour period asleep. They may sleep for three to five hours at a stretch (two to three hours in breastfed babies), and then wake for one to three hours in between.

In toddlers, their sleep needs averages between 11 to 14 hours in a 24-hour period (including daytime naps). The sleep duration decreases further in pre-schoolers to between 10 to13 hours. By five years of age, most children stop taking daytime naps.

School-going children should be highly active and alert during waking hours, and majority require between 9 to 11 hours of sleep at night.

At the onset of puberty, adolescents may develop a two-hour phase delay in their circadian rhythm (‘body clock’), leading to a natural tendency to fall asleep at later times. Majority of adolescents require an average of about eight to ten hours of sleep.

There is no ‘golden rule’ to the exact amount of sleep needed at different ages, and there are often individual variations in sleep requirements, sleep patterns, as well as tolerance to sleep deprivation. In general, the duration of sleep is sufficient if the child feels well-rested on waking spontaneously, and is able to function normally throughout the day.

Some of the signs of insufficient sleep include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Mood disturbances
  • Behavioural problems such as inattention, hyperactivity, oppositional behaviour and poor impulse control
  • Impaired cognitive functioning such as poor concentration, impaired vigilance, delayed reaction time and learning problems

Good Sleep Hygiene and Practices

Do not use the bed for other activities otherThe following advice can help children achieve better sleep:

  • Maintain a consistent sleep and wake time daily, including school days and non-school days.
  • Avoid using the bed for any other activity (e.g. reading, watching television, playing games on personal electronic devices, eating) than sleeping.
  • Avoid using the bedroom for time-out or punishment.
  • Ensure that the bedroom is conducive for sleeping. Keep it dim, cool and quiet.
  • Establish a regular relaxing routine before bedtime (e.g. brushing teeth, changing into pyjamas, reading of a story).
  • Establish a regular relaxing routine before bedtime (e.g. brushing teeth, changing into pyjamas, reading of story)
  • Go to bed only when tired or sleepy, rather than spending too much time awake on the bed. If your child is unable to fall asleep after 20 minutes, consider letting him get out of bed to do some low stimulation activity (e.g. quiet reading) and then returning to bed later.
  • Avoid caffeine (e.g. coffee, tea, chocolate, cola and soda drinks) and nicotine (exposure to environmental tobacco smoke) at least four to six hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid going to bed with a full stomach or when too hungry.
  • Avoid stimulating activities before sleep (e.g. watching of exciting/ frightening television programs, playing of games on personal electronic devices).
  • Regular exercise is encouraged, but avoid exercise or strenuous activities at least four hours before bedtime.

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