Bedtime is a time of transition for all members of the family. For young children, it may be a time when they resist giving up their activities and the company of family members.
We receive many questions from parents about how to get youngsters to settle down for bedtime. Because many of us at 24/7 Pediatric Care Centers are parents as well as pediatric professionals, we have lots of tried-and-true advice to share.
Sleep Requirements for Babies to Teens
The goal at bedtime and throughout the day/night is to ensure that your baby or child has the hours of sleep needed to promote health and normal development. Those hours decrease with age, but even teens need at least eight to nine hours of sleep per day.
- Newborns to one month old – 16 to 17 hours, in periods of one to two hours at a time.
- One to 12 months – 14 to 15 hours. Until about six months, babies usually need three naps during the day for about one hour morning, early afternoon and late afternoon. By six months, babies usually are sleeping through the night and need only two naps.
- One to three years – 12 to 14 hours. Toddlers this age usually still need naps, which may decrease to just one a day by three years. At that time, too, bedtime problems have usually disappeared.
- Three to six years – 10 to 12 hours.
- Seven to 12 years – 11 hours.
- 12 to 18 years – 8 to 9 hours.
Making Bedtime a Stress-free Zone
Planning bedtime around a set routine every night is a good way to help children make the transition to sleep. Be sure to set a an age appropriate bedtime – usually between 7 and 9 – so children’s body rhythms adapt to that sleep pattern. The routine can include a warm bath or a quiet story time so they settle down to a slower pace. Avoid giving caffeinated drinks like colas in the hours before bedtime. For younger children, keep TVs and computers out of the bedroom.
For the child who is particularly resistant to going to sleep, here are some tips:
- Allow your child to go to bed with a familiar “blankie,” stuffed animal or toy. Keep the room dark but use a night light if you prefer.
- Take your time responding to a child who calls out for you repeatedly. Gradually increase your response time so that the child has the opportunity to fall asleep on his own.
When responding, reassure the child that you are there, but do not turn on the lights, play, or explain. Do not stay more than a couple of moments. Gradually keep your distance, do not enter the room, and from outside the door remind the child that it’s bedtime.