- Parents Home
- Allergy Center
- Asthma Center
- Cancer Center
- Diabetes Center
- Emotions & Behavior
- First Aid & Safety
- Food Allergy Center
- General Health
- Growth & Development
- Flu Center
- Heart Health
- Helping With Homework
- Diseases & Conditions
- Nutrition & Fitness Center
- Play & Learn Center
- School & Family Life
- Pregnancy & Newborn Center
- Sports Medicine Center
- Doctors & Hospitals
- Para Padres
- Kids Home
- Asthma Center for Kids
- Cancer Center for Kids
- Movies & More
- Diabetes Center for Kids
- Getting Help
- Puberty & Growing Up
- Health Problems of Grown-Ups
- Health Problems
- Homework Center
- How the Body Works
- Illnesses & Injuries
- Nutrition & Fitness Center for Kids
- Recipes & Cooking for Kids
- Staying Healthy
- Stay Safe Center
- Relax & Unwind Center
- Q&A for Kids
- The Heart
- Videos for Kids
- Staying Safe
- Kids' Medical Dictionary
- Para Niños
- Teens Home
- Asthma Center for Teens
- Be Your Best Self
- Cancer Center for Teens
- Diabetes Center for Teens
- Diseases & Conditions (for Teens)
- Drugs & Alcohol
- Expert Answers (Q&A)
- Flu Center for Teens
- Homework Help for Teens
- Infections (for Teens)
- Managing Your Medical Care
- Managing Your Weight
- Nutrition & Fitness Center for Teens
- Recipes for Teens
- Safety & First Aid
- School & Work
- Sports Center
- Stress & Coping Center
- Videos for Teens
- Para Adolescentes
Kids and Sleep
Sleep — or lack of it — is common concern for parents. As new parents quickly learn, the well-being of everyone in the household can depend on how well their baby sleeps. And when they’re older, kids who don’t get enough sleep can have trouble paying attention, mood swings, behavior problems, and leaning problems.
What Happens During Sleep?
As we sleep, our brains move between two types of sleep — non-REM and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Together, the stages of non-REM sleep and REM sleep make up a sleep cycle. Babies spend more time in REM sleep and their sleep cycles are shorter than adults. Time spent in REM sleep decreases and sleep cycles get longer as kids get older. By the time kids start school, one complete sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes, which is similar to an adult's.
Stage 1 and stage 2 non-REM sleep are light sleep stages:
- A person can wake up easily.
- Eye movements slow down, heart and breathing rates slow down, and body temperature decreases.
Stage 3 non-REM sleep is deep sleep:
- It's harder to wake someone up. When awakened, a person often will feel groggy and confused.
- Night terrors, sleepwalking, and bed-wetting can happen during this stage.
- This is the most refreshing sleep stage. It’s during this stage that the body releases hormones needed for growth and development.
In the final, REM stage of the sleep cycle:
- The eyes move quickly under the eyelids, breathing gets faster, and the heart beats faster. You can’t move your arms or legs during REM sleep.
- This is when we have our most vivid dreams.
- REM sleep is important for learning and memory.
How Much Sleep Do Kids Need?
How much sleep kids need varies by age. While every child is different, experts recommend:
- infants (0–3 months): 14–17 hours, including naps
- infants (4–12 months: 12–16 hours, including naps
- toddlers (1–2 years): 11–14 hours, including naps
- preschool (3–5 years): 10–13 hours, including naps
- school-age (6–13 years): 9–12 hours
- teens (14–17 years): 8–10 hours
How Can I Tell if My Child Isn’t Getting Enough Sleep?
A child who isn’t getting enough sleep may:
- fall asleep during the day
- be hyperactive (especially younger children)
- have trouble paying attention
- struggle with school work
- be cranky, whiny, irritable, or moody
- have behavior problems
What Can Help Kids Sleep?
For kids of all ages, set up a bedtime routine that encourages good sleep habits. These tips can help kids ease into a good night's sleep:
- Stick to a regular bedtime. You can give your kids a heads-up 30 minutes and then 10 minutes beforehand.
- Encourage older kids and teens to set a bedtime that allows for the full hours of sleep needed at their age. A bedtime routine could include washing up and brushing teeth, reading a book, or listening to quiet music.
- Turn off all screens (TV, computers, phones, tablets, and video games) at least 1 hour before bedtime. Consider removing all devices from your child’s bedroom.
More About Sleep by Age
Learn more about sleep as your child grows:
- Sleep and Your Preschooler
- Sleep and Your Newborn
- Sleep and Your 8- to 12-Month-Old
- Sleep and Your 1- to 3-Month-Old
- Sleep and Your 4- to 7-Month-Old
- Sleep and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old
- Sleep and Your Teen
- Night Terrors
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Helping Your Toddler Sleep (Video)
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995- KidsHealth® All rights reserved.
Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.