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09th Jun 2016

How Much Sleep Do Kids REALLY Need? A Sleep Expert Reveals All

Niamh O'Reilly

Regular readers will know by now that I am a fan of routine and daytime structures for little ones and for the most part, the reason I like them is because the right amount of daytime sleep can have a positive impact on how well little ones sleep at night. The opposite is also true – little ones who don’t sleep well during the day will often be those same kids who are “night owls”.

There are loads of options in terms of daytime routines for babies and toddlers. Whichever one you decide has to be one that works for you and your family life though we must also be mindful of general guidelines in terms of how much sleep our little ones need.

Sleep needs aren’t just quantity based – it’s also important that our kids are getting good quality sleep and often sleeping at the appropriate time for their age will play a huge part in this. So, the better sleep our little ones get, the more chances we give them to grow and develop.

I have recently seen a number of suggested amounts of sleep for little ones doing the rounds online. Posts suggesting that a 12-year-old should be sleeping up to 12 hours a night might be a little unrealistic, the suggested figures are a guide and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. It doesn’t necessarily mean that if your school-going child isn’t sleeping 12 hours a night it’s the worst thing in the world, but rather that kids should be falling within a range of this.

There is no doubt that our kids need sleep. It is a vital part of growth and development. Children are by their nature, busy little humans – constantly learning and developing, and all this activity – be it physical or mental, means that the body (and brain) needs to rest – and rest well!

Below is a chart from my book No Fuss Baby and Toddler Sleep. As shown, I suggest that at five years old your little ones should be sleeping between 10-12 hours a night. 10 hours would probably be ample – any less and you could try to encourage extra sleep, while any more would be a bonus!

Some babies and children will sleep a little more or a little less, but these figures would be the ideal in terms of sleep needs:

Age Daytime Sleep (hours) Night time Sleep (hours)
Newborn (up to 3 months) Up to 19/20 hours between day and night
Infants (from 3 to 6 months) 4 hours 11-12 hours
Infants 6-12 months Up to 3 hours 11 – 12 hours
Toddlers (12 months -2.5 years) 2 hours 11-12 hours
Pre-school Children (up to 5 years) 11-13 hours
School age children (5 years +) 10-12 hours


Extract from No Fuss Baby and Toddler Sleep, Mercier Press 2015

Like everything, take these charts with a small pinch of salt and a dose of reality – if your kids’ sleep patterns are somewhere in the range, high five for you!

Niamh O’Reilly is a sleep coach. She’s also a baby and childcare guru, a ‘parent nanny’ and the answer to many a weary parent’s woes. When it comes to baby and child issues, Niamh is your woman.

Niamh’s book, No Fuss Baby & Toddler Sleep, is now available to buy from all good book stores or online from