Can anyone really define “normal sleeping”? Certainly, sleep habits and requirements can vary from one child to another and one can’t just ask another parent what their kids are doing to figure it all out. One child’s 10 hours of sleep might not be enough for another child whose body requires more.
So what is a parent to do who is concerned their children aren’t getting the appropriate sleep that they need? Remember, every child will have some nights where they can’t fall asleep or wakes up in the middle of the night because of a nightmare, but here are some foundations to help determine if things are in the normal range:
1. Recommended hours of sleep
Normal sleeping requires less hours of sleep as development continues. Babies need 14-16 hours every day; toddlers need about 12-14; preschoolers should do well with 10-12; tweens could use 10-11, and teens require (but rarely get) 8-9. The exact amount can vary from child to child, but these references are a good start to see where your child is at.
2. The napping stage
Toddlers over age 1 still need naps, though less frequently than babies. Younger children, even preschoolers, will get tired, and be recharged from a nap for the rest of the day. These naps should occur regularly around the same time every day, fitting in with your child’s routine. Eventually, much to the chagrin of many parents, the need to nap is usually outgrown by kindergarten age (if not sooner), but if younger kids are not napping at all, this could be a sign of your child’s sleep being “off”.
3. Falling asleep with ease
Typically, an adult takes about 10-20 minutes to fall asleep, and this time frame is similar for children. Anything more on a consistent basis is not a sign of normal sleeping; anything much less (such as falling asleep right when the head hits the pillow) can also be a sign of a problem—kids should be tired at bedtime normal sleep usually takes some time to occur.
4. Waking up without an alarm
Eventually, as kids age, they may need an alarm clock or a parent to wake them up. But the young kindergarteners, if they are getting enough sleep overnight, should wake up with a bounce in their step and ready to take on the world without any significant extra help. Natural waking after a good night’s sleep is a sign of normal sleeping in children.
5. No significant fatigue
Once kids are past the nap stage, they shouldn’t be overly tired, as in falling-asleep-in-class tired, on a consistent basis. Everyone regardless of age can have a day that they feel a bit fatigued, but grade schoolers shouldn’t need a nap every single day. Tired children may not be achieving normal sleep, even when on the surface they are getting enough time to sleep. Quality counts!.