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Healthy Sleep for Infants and Children

Good sleep habits for infants and children are important help them function throughout the day and can also help them settle at night. Sleep requirements change with each stage of infancy and childhood.

It is not uncommon for newborns to sleep up to 18 hours per day in 3 to 4 hour stretches. Sleep habits can begin to be formed from birth. Teaching infants cues to know when it is time to sleep such as low lights or placing them in the crib or bassinet can be helpful in developing their sleep habits over time.  Usually at around 3 months infants sleep schedules become more predictable. Babies will let you know when they are tired, it is important to follow their cues. Creating a sleep diary can be helpful to identify an infant’s sleeping patterns and cues. Most babies are napping 3 times per day by the age of 4 months, morning afternoon and early evening. Between 6-12months old, babies usually transition from 3 naps down to 2 longer naps.  The Canadian Pediatric Society has more tips on healthy sleep habits for infants.

Between the ages of 1 and 2 toddlers should have consistent bed and wake times and sleep 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours, including naps. You may visit the Caring for Kids website to view tips on creating healthy sleep habits for toddlers.

Between the ages of 3 to 4 preschool age children typically sleep about 10 to 13 hours per day. During this age range, children may drop to one nap per day but some children may still need another nap at some point during the day and still others may stop napping all together at this stage.  Children at this age may still benefit from time to rest in the afternoon where they may read or unwind even if they do not sleep. It is not uncommon for children at this age to go through periods where they awake during the night from fears or nightmares. For more information on sleep for preschoolers, you may visit the Canadian Pediatric Society website.

Adolescent’s bodies and minds are growing rapidly. During this stage, teenagers age 14 to 17 should get between 8 and 10 hrs of uninterrupted sleep per night.  Good sleep habits will allow for better concentration in school, alertness for sports and social activities and motivation to achieve goals. Poor sleep can affect memory, lead to a car crash from decreased reaction time and may lead to depression. Follow this link for additional information on helping you sleep.

Sleep is essential at all stages of life. Adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Getting a good night sleep can be difficult when we lead busy lives. It is important to maintain good sleep hygiene in order to achieve sleep health.

  • Discontinue Electronics: Electronic devices should not be used before you sleep because they stimulate your senses and makes sleep difficult due to exposure to light and sound. Exposure to electronic media at bedtime can lead to shorter sleep duration and sleep difficulties on weekdays, so it’s best to power down the electronics before you head to bed.
  • Setting the Environment: In the morning, encourage your child to be active and expose them to sunlight. Then at night, create a calm, quiet, distraction free atmosphere and keep it dark to help create a good sleep environment.
  • Familiar Habits: Children should fall asleep in the same location and should fall asleep and wake up each day at similar times throughout the week, even on weekends.
  • Things to avoid: Heavy meals, spicy foods, and caffeine should be avoided for children near their bedtime because they can stimulate them and not allow them to be calm before sleep. Intense exercise should be avoided before bed. Naps for children over the age of 5 should be avoided because they are now at an age where one length of sleep at night is appropriate and healthy to have on a regular basis.

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Last modified: 
Thursday, February 27, 2020 - 2:32pm