Sleep deprivation is one of the first things we associate with the arrival of a new baby. Many an experienced parent will sympathise with an expectant young couple, aware of just how much their sleep will be disturbed by their new offspring.
While as adults we need and value our sleep, for children sleep is critical to their wellbeing and a lack of it can negatively impact both their emotional and physical development as well as their general health.
A comfortable and safe sleeping environment is essential for the developing child, as he or she will spend around 40 percent of its childhood in slumber, which is a significant amount of time. Of course the amount of sleep a child needs depends very much on her age or stage in development.
Sleeping Like A Baby
A baby arrives in the world with no concept of night and day. Initially she sleeps randomly for one or two hours at a time but for around 16 out of every 24 hours, mainly because of how frequently she needs to be fed. It takes her six weeks to develop Circadian Rhythm, the cycle of waking and sleeping dictated by daylight and night time. Between three and six months old she will develop regular sleeping patterns and should sleep through the night for around six to eight hours, although this varies widely between children.
From around 3 to 11 months, a baby requires around 12 hours of sleep each night complemented by a couple of daytime naps. Night time feeds are not necessary by the time a baby is six months old and when a baby reaches nine months she will be sleeping through the night. She will probably still take a couple of naps a day but by the age of one this will drop to a single nap. It is important early on to develop a baby’s ability to self sooth by putting her to bed when she is sleepy but not yet asleep.
A good sleep routine is as beneficial for parents as it is for children and allows a degree of planning, particularly if there are siblings to work around. It is worthwhile persisting with the development of a good routine even if a child is reluctant. Once a child realises who is the boss in terms of setting the parameters for bed time, the happier they will be.
Baby To Toddler
As a child grows, she still needs plenty of sleep to maintain healthy development and toddlers from 1 to 3 should be getting an average 12 to 14 hours sleep each day which includes a daytime nap of 1 to 3 hours.
A pre-schooler, age 3 to 5, requires a little less sleep, approximately 11 to 13 hours per night and although they might have the odd daytime nap, most children will stop this by the age of 5.
Making the progression to school-aged child, 5 to 12 years old, around 10 to 11 hours sleep per night is recommended. A child’s bedroom should be a quiet, calm and sleep-friendly place, ideally without the distractions of televisions or computers.
Healthy sleeping habits established at an early age will set the tone for life and allow for a consistent bedtime routine throughout a child’s development. Children can be trained to develop a good routine and it’s worth pursuing because ultimately the better a child sleeps the better a parent sleeps, and that makes for a happier home for all the family.
Zoe writes on behalf of bed superstore Archers Sleep Centre. Tweet your thoughts on this article to @bloggingstyle.