Sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. The average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep a night, but babies need a lot of sleep. When they are between four and 11 months old, they need 12 to 15 hours a day (nighttime sleep, plus naps). At a certain point, they can sleep many of those hours consecutively at night—the key is sleep training.
Sleep training when babies are too young doesn’t work—it usually takes babies about three to six months to develop the circadian rhythm that they’ll need to want to sleep at night and be awake during the day. Once that happens, babies can sleep nine to 12 hours at night.
While each baby reacts a little differently to sleep training and there are varying methods, there are a few key points to keep in mind.
- Babies need to learn how to soothe themselves. Putting a baby down drowsy (not fully asleep) encourages him or her to fall asleep on his or her own. That means when little ones wake up in the middle of the night, they will know how to self-soothe and put themselves back to sleep without crying out for you.
- A consistent bedtime is key. Sleep training is about creating a brand new schedule, which means every night bedtime should happen around the same time.
- There might be setbacks. There might be nights where it doesn’t go very smoothly (especially if a baby gets sick or a parent is traveling), but keeping a routine is key.
- There is no right way to sleep train. There are many different approaches to sleep training, and there are parents who swear by each and every one of them. Some experts, for example, advocate letting a child “cry it out,” while others don’t.
- A parent will ultimately be successful. Between 70 and 80 percent of nine-month-olds sleep through the night, so parents shouldn’t get discouraged.
Most toddlers (children between the age of 1 and 3 years) need between 12 and 14 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period. This may be split up between nighttime sleeping and a nap or two during the daytime. It may take several weeks of experimenting before you discover what works best for your toddler. By the end of the second year, naps typically decrease to once a day lasting up to three hours. Most toddlers move from cribs to beds between the ages of two and three.
Sleep helps your children grow strong and healthy during their preschool years (ages 3 to 5). Most children during this age need between 11 and 13 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period and usually one daytime nap. As napping begins to trail off, most preschoolers can still benefit from resting. The best way to do this is to establish a set routine for quiet or relaxing time in the child’s bedroom. Around an hour a day is a sufficient amount of time.
Tips for toddler or preschooler sleep
There are a number of things you can do to establish an excellent bedtime routine to ensure that your toddler gets enough sleep. When setting up a bedtime routine, keep these things in mind:
- Stick to the same set bed times and wake up times each day.
Maintain a consistent bedtime routine. Establish calm and enjoyable activities in the 30 minutes right before bedtime, such as taking a bath or reading bedtime stories too your child.