The answer varies, and each child has different needs, according to Judith Owens, MD, who directs Sleep Medicine at Children’s National. But there are some general guidelines based on age:
Newborns (1-2 months) sleep between 10.5 to 18 hours a day. They are still developing their circadian rhythms and sleep will be interrupted frequently by their need to eat, be changed, or be held.
Infants (3-11 months) should begin to sleep through the night, getting between 9-12 hours, including naps during the day.
Toddlers (1-3 years) will sleep 12 to 14 hours a day, but will begin to be resistant to bedtimes because they want to be with you and don’t want to miss anything.
Preschoolers (3-5 years) will sleep between 11-13 hours, but may have an increase in nightmares that wake them and will need to be calmed before returning to sleep.
School-aged kids (5-12 years) should sleep 10-12 hours, but their increasing obligations can begin to interfere with sleep if kept unchecked.
Teenagers (12-18 years) should sleep an average of 8 ½ -9 ½ hours, however; their obligations combined with their social lives can make sleep a low priority. They are also naturally predisposed to staying up and getting up later, which is not always complementary to school start times.
These numbers are averages and should serve as a guide. How do this stack up with your experience? What other sleep-related questions do you have?