Understanding your child’s sleep habits can help you to understand them better. Older children have a Circadian rhythm that regulates their wake and sleep cycles based on light and dark. Newborns don’t have this development yet, and tend to sleep and wake throughout the day and night. The good news is that the wake and sleep cycles develop between three and six months so you can get some rest too.
Newborns (1-2 Months)
Newborns sleep and wake throughout the day and night. Their cycles interact with their basic needs of food and changing as well as nurturing. Newborns generally sleep a total of 10.5 to 18 hours a day with interval of one to three hours awake. It is quite normal for a newborn to move quite a bit in their sleep. You will see arms and legs twitching, smiling, sucking noises and other activities. They look restless, but it is just part of the development stage of a newborn.
When a newborn needs to sleep, they may cry, be fussy, rub their eyes or make a gesture. When babies are sleepy, they need to be put to bed to relax and fall asleep. If you want your newborn to stay up longer hours in the day and sleep more at nighttime, you can encourage this by exposure to noise and light to keep them stimulated and awake. Playing and interacting with them can also help in this department. When evening approaches and there is less light and stimulation, they will fall asleep easier and sleep for longer intervals at night.
Observe your baby closely so you will realize when they are sleepy. Place the baby in their crib making certain that their face and head is clear of all blankets and toys.
Bedding: It is best to obtain a new baby crib mattress for your newborn. If you have a crib that is still in good shape from a previous child, you only need a new mattress and can reuse the crib itself.
Infants (3-11 Months)
Your child will most likely sleep through the night at around 6 months of age, so they will no longer need to wake up and be fed at night. Approximately 70 thorough 80 percent will do this by 9 months of age. Infants generally sleep about 9 to 12 hours during the night and take naps one to four times a day of 30 minutes to two hours long.
Infants that are secure and happy in their environment and with their caregivers may sleep better at night, though some may not want to give up the bonding time to fall asleep on their own. During the second half of this year, infants can develop separation anxiety that interrupts their ability to fall asleep easily.
Try to develop distinct sleep and daytime and bedtime schedules with a consistent and fun bedtime routine, such as reading a book. Keep their bedroom in a sleep friendly environment with dim lights and little noise.
Your infant will still be in the baby crib, but you may need to move the mattress down to a lower level so they cannot climb out of the bed and get hurt. Some children are avid climbers at this age, even if they are not walking yet.
Toddlers (1-3 years)
At the age of 1 to 3 years old, toddlers usually need to sleep a total of 12 to 14 hours per each 24-hour day. When they are approximately 18 months old, their naptimes usually decrease to once a day for about one to three hours. Keeping your toddler from taking a nap to close to bedtime enables them to sleep throughout the night. Toddlers may experience fighting to go to sleep at night and can sometimes have nightmares that wake them up at night.
Toddlers strive to be independent and their ability to get out of bed can lead to sleep interruptions. Their imaginations are developing to form dreams and increased motor and cognitive abilities can wake them at night.
Keep their sleep schedule and bedtime routine the same to encourage a wake and sleep schedule. Set limits to enforce a bedtime with a standard bedtime routine. Encourage your child to sleep with a favorite stuffed animal so they feel secure.
Toddlers can crawl out of a baby crib and hurt themselves as they fall to the floor. It is best to get a twin bed that they can get out of without harming themselves. You can choose from a single twin bed or a trundle bed to accommodate an extra friend or relative to sleep over in the same room.
Preschoolers (3 to 5 Years)
Preschoolers usually sleep about 11 to 13 hours a night and the daytime naps are usually eliminated after they reach 5 years old. Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep can occur at this age. The preschooler’s development of their imaginations can lead to nightmares or interrupted sleep at night.
Keep your preschooler on a sleep schedule with little variation in it and a bedtime routine that ends with your child falling asleep. The environment should be cool, quiet and without a television for them to sleep restfully.
You can continue to use your twin bed or trundle bed at this time, as it will have plenty of room for your child to sleep in.
School Aged Children (5-12 Years)
Children enter pre-school at 5 years of age and their sleeping habits remain the same up to about 12 years of age. They all need about 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night. The increasing demand on them from school and activities may tire them out more quickly during the day. At this stage of life, they also become interested in the internet, media, television and computers. It has been shown that children watching television close to bedtime have a much harder time of going to sleep quickly and sleeping fewer hours per night.
Poor or inadequate sleep in this age group can lead to mood swings and behavioral problems that can impact their learning ability in school.
Teach your children at this age about good sleep habits and continue to keep them on a sleep schedule at night. You may avoid any type of drinks with caffeine in them close to bedtime so they fall asleep quickly and stay asleep without the need for the bathroom night trips.
Your child can remain in their twin bed at this age, though you will most probably opt for a full size bed in the upper ages of this group. The extra room allows your child to be able to move around more in bed or even study for school while lying across a larger bed.
Learning about what to expect at all ages of children in their sleep habits helps you to understand your child. One of the most important items is to have a schedule with a comfortable environment to sleep in and bedding that is age appropriate for your children.