Babies seem to sleep too much, teenagers, too little. But how much sleep is really recommended for youngsters and why does it matter?

Long neglected as an inevitable, yet useless, daily function, sleep is increasingly being recognized as a pillar of illness prevention and maintenance of good health, whereas insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic conditions and diseases. Sleep needs depend on various factors, but are primarily based on age.

Newborns – 3 months

Don’t get your slumber hopes up with a new baby in the house, because newborns do not have a set sleeping pattern. At this age, babies have yet to develop a circadian rhythm establishing a 24-hour daily pattern related to daylight and nighttime cycles, and they are thus incapable of settling into a steady sleep routine. Typically, newborns will sleep approximately 15-18 hours a day in short 2-4 hour intervals. Many experts agree that at this age, feeding and sleep patterns should be based on the baby’s demand. During the first two months, newborns may need to be fed every 2 hours, though bottle-fed babies may require less frequent feeding.

By six weeks, your baby is settling into a regular sleep routine. Day/night confusion usually ends somewhere between four and twelve weeks. At this age, the infant’s motor and cognitive development is likely to result in frequent nighttime waking[DS1] . Sleeping through the night is a developmental milestone (like walking or toilet training) that your baby will reach when he or she is ready. Trying to force baby to reach this before her time may result in other problems later on.

4-6 months

Babies wake at night for many reasons, and they often start waking at night after sleeping through for a few months. Some of the reasons for night waking (in no particular order) are:

•   Baby wants more time with mom

•   Teething

•   Developmental advances (for example: waking more often right before or after learning to turn over, crawl or talk)

•   Illness, allergy, diaper rash, eczema

•   Hunger (including growth spurts)

•   Reverse cycling: Some babies whose moms are away during the day prefer to reject most/all supplements while mom is away, and nurse often during the evening and night. If Mom is very busy during the day, or if the baby is very distracted, this can also lead to reverse cycling.

When your child nurses more often at night, go through this checklist to see if you can figure out the source of the disturbance. Sometimes there may be more than one factor causing the night waking. When separation anxiety sets in, your baby will associate sleep time with being left alone, making bedtime a challenge. My advice for parents is to give reassurance by patting and soothing your baby when necessary, but avoid taking your baby out of bed. Repeat as needed, and sleep disturbance will soon pass.

7-12 months

Many babies at this age take several naps – one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the early evening. Now is a perfect time to sleep train – a process to help your baby learn to sleep and stay asleep throughout the night. If your baby sleeps for 9-10 hours a night, take it as a sign that you are raising a good sleeper.

1-3 years old

Despite our best efforts, sleep problems often occur with toddlers. Children at this age typically get 10 hours of sleep a night, though ideally you should aim for 14 hours in every 24-hour period. Your toddler will likely drop to one nap a day. If the child refuses, don’t force the nap. Instead, institute quiet time, such as a period of listening to calming music or looking at books, as a substitute. Be consistent with naptime and bedtime. You can reduce bedtime woes by giving your toddler a warm bath, cuddle time and story time, which will help your child unwind and prepare for bed.

4-6 years

By the age of five, napping is a thing of the past. Your goal should be 13 hours of nighttime sleep.

7-12 years

11 hours a day is recommended.

13-18 years

Generally speaking, up to 10 hours of sleep is sufficient for teens and adults. Bear in mind, however, that the quality of sleep is just as vital as the number of hours spent sleeping. The quality of sleep directly affects one’s physical vitality, mental sharpness, emotional balance, and even weight. If you are getting enough hours of sleep but still have trouble waking up or staying alert, you most likely are not spending enough time in the rapid eye movement (REM) or dream stage of the sleep cycle, and you should consult with a professional.

It is important to note the crucial difference between the amount of sleep your child can get by on, and the amount of sleep he needs for optimal functioning. Just because your child seems healthy and functional, this does not mean he is getting the sleep he needs to grow and perform to the best of his ability.

Kids’ Sleep Problems

Sleep disorders are common in infants and children. In fact, it is estimated that 69 percent of children under the age of 10 experience some form of sleep problem. The following is a brief overview of the most common childhood sleep problems.

Narcolepsy: A chronic sleep disorder characterized by excessive sleepiness and fatigue attacks at inappropriate times.

Bed wetting: Involuntary urination at any time of the day or night. This is a common occurrence in many households and often a normal part of a child’s development.

Sleepwalking: Walking or performing other activities while asleep.

Restless leg syndrome: A “creeping” sensation associated with aches and pains throughout the legs that make it difficult to sleep.

Sleep is one of the cornerstones of good health. That’s pretty good news, considering there is no other activity that delivers so many benefits yet requires so little effort. By ensuring that we and our children get the sleep we need, and that any problems are promptly addressed, we can help maximize our daytime performance and general health, and make sure our bodies are strong and sturdy enough to do everything we want and need them to do.

Dr. Jack Sadacka, M.D., is a well-knownlicensed pediatrician, in practice for 20 year. He can be reached at his office on, 813 Quentin Rd, Suite 202, at 718-645-2618.