Sleep tips for children
- Healthy sleep means getting enough good quality sleep, and having regular sleep routines.
- Sleep is essential for growth, immunity and learning, and is important for helping children heal and recover from illness and injury.
- Poor sleep is linked to mental health problems, poor growth and reduced school performance.
Why is sleep important for my child?
All children need sleep for growth, learning and development. Getting enough sleep is vital for your child's physical health, brain function, emotional wellbeing, safety, and ability to function day to day. Having a good night's sleep can help your child be happier, helps them to concentrate and remember things, and improves their behaviour.
Not having enough sleep or not sleeping well can affect how children learn and lead to mood swings, poor growth and behavioural problems.
How much sleep do children need?
The amount of sleep your child needs changes as they grow. Everyone is different, but as a guide, children need the following amounts of sleep every night:
- ages 3 to 5: 10 to 13 hours (including naps)
- ages 6 to 12: 9 to 11 hours
- ages 13 to 18: 8 to 10 hours
Tips to help children sleep well
Getting enough sleep is as important for your child as healthy eating and exercising. Here are some tips to help your child fall asleep, stay asleep and get enough good quality sleep:
- Establish a sleep schedule: Make sure your child goes to bed early enough to get the sleep they need. Once you have set an appropriate bed time, stick to it — even on the weekend.
- Establish a bedtime routine: Follow the same routine every day: bath or shower, change into pyjamas, brush teeth, read or spend quiet time in their bedroom, lights out and go to sleep.
- Help your child wind down: Busy children need some time to relax. Consider playing soft music or reading to them.
- Make sure the bedroom is suitable for sleep: Ensure the bedroom is dark and quiet. If your child is anxious or afraid at night, use a night light.
- Avoid stimulants: Make sure your child avoids tea, coffee, chocolate and sports drinks, especially in the afternoon.
- Turn off technology: Try turning off computers, tablets and television one hour before bedtime to help your child sleep better.
Signs of sleep problems
If you establish good sleep habits and your child is still having trouble falling or staying asleep, they might have a sleep problem. You might notice behaviour problems, difficulty concentrating or they might seem tired during the day.
Signs of sleep problems include:
- wetting the bed
- night terrors
- teeth grinding
- trouble breathing while asleep, or taking long pauses between breaths
Whatever the cause, it is important to talk to your child about what is worrying them and decide on clear rules about a bedtime routine. Praising your child and reinforcing good behaviour will also help to improve bedtime problems. If you think your child may have a sleep problem, especially if they have trouble breathing while they sleep, talk to your doctor.
Resources and support
Visit the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby website for information and resources about sleep for children up to 5 years old and the Raising Children Network website for children of any age.
Download the 'Sleep Clock' activity from the Sleep Help Foundation to help your children establish good sleep habits.
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Last reviewed: June 2022