Research Review: How Much Sleep Do Children Need?

With all that we are required to do each day, we may not pay much attention to exactly how much sleep we are getting.

Our work and school requirements tend to determine when we get up, and the shows available on television may determine when we go to bed. The bedtimes we give children are likely based on what is convenient for adults, or on the child’s willingness to go to bed.

While this may not seem like a problem, the amount of sleep we get has a lot more to do with our health and well-being than we realize. This is even truer for children, given their growth and developmental requirements. Many people have heard that “8 hours of sleep” is ideal, but this is not true for children.

For the first time, a professional organization has developed age-specific recommendations for sleep times based on a scientific review of the research relating sleep to health, performance, and safety (Hirshkowitz et al., 2015). The National Sleep Foundation now recommends wider appropriate sleep ranges for most age groups. The new recommendations are as follows:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

These sleep times are recommended as “appropriate”, which means that parents should consider all quality of life factors in determining the right amount of sleep for their children. While each child may require somewhat more or less than the recommendations, these ranges also provide parents with a good guide for determining whether their child is sleeping too little or too much. If a child’s sleep duration is well outside the recommended range, it is important to talk with the child’s healthcare provider(s) to determine what, if any, interventions are needed. Of course, adults need to get the appropriate amount of sleep, too. The sleep range for 26-64 year olds did not change and remains 7-9 hours. For growing children, however, changes in sleep time may have a lot to do with everything from their social functioning to their behaviors and learning ability.


Hirshkowitz, M., Whiton, K., Albert, S.M., Alessi, C., Bruni, O., DonCarlos, L…Hillard, P.J. (2015). National Sleep Foundation’s

sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summary. Sleep Health, 1(1), 40-43.

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