Sleep Requirements in Infants
Sleep architecture (the pattern and
proportion of the different sleep stages
during sleep) and sleep requirements
evolve with the development and
maturation of the central nervous
system as a child progresses from
infancy through childhood and
adolescence, to adulthood.
Newborns spend an average of 14 to
17 hours in a 24-hour period asleep.
They may sleep for three to five
hours at a stretch (two to three hours
in breastfed babies), and then wake
for one to three hours in between.
In toddlers, their sleep needs
averages between 11 to 14 hours
in a 24-hour period (including
daytime naps). The sleep duration
decreases further in pre-schoolers
to between 10 to13 hours. By
five years of age, most children stop
taking daytime naps.
School-going children should
be highly active and alert during
waking hours, and majority
require between 9 to 11 hours of
sleep at night.
At the onset of puberty, adolescents
may develop a two-hour phase
delay in their circadian rhythm
(‘body clock’), leading to a natural
tendency to fall asleep at later
times. Majority of adolescents
require an average of about eight to
ten hours of sleep.
There is no ‘golden rule’ to the exact
amount of sleep needed at different
ages, and there are often individual
variations in sleep requirements, sleep
patterns, as well as tolerance to sleep
deprivation. In general, the duration of
sleep is sufficient if the child feels well-rested on waking spontaneously,
and is able to function normally
throughout the day.
Some of the signs of insufficient sleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Mood disturbances
- Behavioural problems such as inattention, hyperactivity, oppositional behaviour and poor impulse control
- Impaired cognitive functioning such as poor concentration, impaired vigilance, delayed reaction time and learning problems
Good Sleep Hygiene and Practices
The following advice can help children
achieve better sleep:
- Maintain a consistent sleep and wake
time daily, including school days and
- Avoid using the bed for any other
activity (e.g. reading, watching
television, playing games on
personal electronic devices, eating)
- Avoid using the bedroom for time-out
- Ensure that the bedroom is conducive
for sleeping. Keep it dim, cool and
- Establish a regular relaxing routine
before bedtime (e.g. brushing teeth,
changing into pyjamas, reading of a
- Establish a regular relaxing routine before bedtime (e.g. brushing teeth, changing into pyjamas, reading of story)
- Go to bed only when tired or sleepy,
rather than spending too much time
awake on the bed. If your child is
unable to fall asleep after 20 minutes,
consider letting him get out of bed to
do some low stimulation activity (e.g.
quiet reading) and then returning to
- Avoid caffeine (e.g. coffee, tea,
chocolate, cola and soda drinks) and
nicotine (exposure to environmental
tobacco smoke) at least four to six
hours before bedtime.
- Avoid going to bed with a full stomach or when too hungry.
- Avoid stimulating activities before
sleep (e.g. watching of exciting/
frightening television programs,
playing of games on personal
- Regular exercise is encouraged, but
avoid exercise or strenuous activities
at least four hours before bedtime.