Sleep Tips for Children of all Ages

December 7th, 2016

Sleep is an important occupation of newborns, infants, toddlers, and children as it directly impacts mental and physical development. The amount of sleep a child needs changes over time, decreasing as the child grows. The National Sleep Foundation (2013) recommends that children receive the following amount of hours of sleep per 24-hour period

Age Hours of Sleep Needed
Newborns (0-2 months) 12-18 hours
Infants (3-11 months) 14-15 hours​
Toddlers (1-3 years) 12-14 hours
Preschoolers (3-5 years) 11-13 hours
School-age Children (5-12 years) 10-11 hours
Teens (13-17 years) 8.5-9.25 hours

1.Incorporating calming activities an hour before bedtime

Avoid: screen time (television shows, movies, mp3 players, phones), exciting activities (tickling sessions, spinning in circles, jumping, rough and tumble play)

  • These activities can be very alerting for children as they provide a variety of sensory experiences which “wake up” the body instead of winding it down

Instead choose: puzzles, snuggling, coloring, quiet toys without excessive lights and loud noises

2. At around 6 weeks old, nighttime routines can be started and should last 20-30 minutes.

Activities to be included in night time routine:

  • Reading a book
  • Taking a warm bath
  • Listening to calm, soft music
  • Massage
  • Bottle/Drink

Activities for nighttime routine need to fit your family, schedule, and preferences. It is important to find what fits best for you and your child. The most important aspect of nighttime routine is consistency. It should be the same regardless of day of the week.

3.Put your newborn, toddler, or child in their crib or bed when they are drowsy, not asleep. This helps aid a child’s ability to become a self soother, helping them naturally fall asleep on their own instead of depending on adults for soothing.

4.Some children find it easy to fall asleep initially, but display difficulty in staying asleep throughout the night. This can lead to disruptions in the sleep cycle.
Some helpful suggestions to help your child remain asleep include:
Make sure the room is optimal temperature for your little one to sleep.
It is recommended that the temperature be between 65-72 degrees in the room in order to prevent overheating which can lead to an increase chance of SIDS.

5.Silence can be keeping your child awake. In utero babies are used to hearing constant noises whether it is mom’s heartbeat and stomach noises or her talking voice. Putting on a fan or noise machine has been shown to decrease the frequency of unexpected awakenings in small children.

6.Sleep can be a difficult occupation to address and can cause stress on the family. If your child struggles with falling asleep, staying asleep, or is snoring throughout the night for an extended period of time alert your health care professionals to your concerns.

Written By: Tara Buffum, MOT, OTR/L for Oceanside Therapy Group

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2007). Brain basics: Understanding sleep. Retrieved from: understanding_sleep.htm
National Sleep Foundation. (2006). Sleep-wake cycle: It’s physiology and impact on health. Retrieved from: SleepWakeCycle.pdf
National Sleep Foundation. (2013). How sleep works. Retrieved from: http://