How much sleep do kids need? Sleep recommendations, bedtime routines and more

Sleep can impact nearly every part of a child’s physical, mental and emotional health.

Whether or not bedtime is a struggle for you and your child, you might be wondering, how much sleep do kids really need? Adequate sleep is a major part of a child’s overall wellness. Sleep can impact nearly every part of a child’s physical, mental and emotional health.

Norton Children’s Medical Group

Our pediatricians are ready to assist parents with their child’s back-to-school routines and health checkups.

“In order to feel rested and ready for the school day, children ages 6 to 12 need between nine and 12 hours of sleep each night, and teenagers need eight to 10 hours of sleep,” said Jameel T. Clark, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Group, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. “Parents should make sure their child goes to bed with enough time to get those recommended hours of sleep.”

Lack of sleep in children can lead to poor academic performance and behavioral issues in school. Kids who don’t get enough sleep also have an increased risk of health issues, including high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and depression. Sleep deprivation makes a child more prone to injuries and accidents.

Factors influencing children’s sleep needs

Kids need enough sleep, and there are certain habits and behaviors that affect bedtimes. It’s important to understand what can impact a child’s sleep — the good and the bad — to help encourage the best bedtime routine and create an environment that fosters good sleep hygiene. Here are the main factors that can influence a child’s sleep:

  • Biological factors
    • Role of circadian rhythms
      • The circadian rhythm is part of our “biological clock.” This influences when we naturally feel tired, fall asleep and wake up. A standardized bedtime routine can help keep the circadian rhythm on track.
    • Genetic predispositions
      • Some children may be genetically predisposed to sleep disorders or other health issues that can impact sleep. Check with your child’s pediatrician if the child is having issues with falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night.
  • Environmental factors
    • Noise and light exposure
      • Loud or excessive noise and light can derail a child’s sleep schedule or make it more difficult to fall asleep. Creating an environment that fosters sleep is necessary: minimal noise (with the exception of white or soft noise that can help some children calm down and sleep), dim lighting before bed and darkness when it’s time for sleep. Some children may prefer a night light; it just shouldn’t be too bright.
    • Bedroom environment and comfort
      • Proper temperature and a comfortable environment can encourage better sleep. Kids sleep better in a cool (but not cold) room with a comfortable mattress, supportive pillows and soft blankets.
  • Lifestyle factors
    • Physical activity and its effects on sleep
      • Regular physical activity encourages better sleep. Make sure your child is active during the day, but too much physical activity too close to bedtime can hamper a child’s ability to fall asleep.
    • Screen time and electronic devices
      • Screen time and blue light from electronic devices can interfere with sleep quality. Set screen-time limits and encourage screen-free time leading up to bedtime.

Sleep needs of kids during the school year

Shopping for school supplies, completing back-to-school checkups and meeting new teachers are all part of the back-to-school excitement. But for many families, one of the biggest challenges is getting back into a regular bedtime routine. Summer break often means more relaxed bedtime and wake-up schedules.

American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) guidelines for the recommended amounts of sleep by age are endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

AASM details how much sleep kids need, with recommendations by age groups, as follows:

  • Ages 4 months to 12 months: 12 to 16 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours (including naps)
  • Ages 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours (including naps)
  • Age 6 to 12 years: nine to 12 hours
  • Age 13 to 18 years: eight to 10 hours

Preschoolers (Ages 3 to 5)

Preschoolers need 10 to 13 hours of sleep every day, which includes naps. Maintaining a consistent bedtime routine is important, especially at this age, when your child is first starting their educational journey. Implementing routines and establishing the importance of them can help set your child up for good sleep habits for the rest of their childhood. It also can provide them comfort in knowing what to expect when it comes to waking up before school, and what happens at school, after school and at bedtime.

Grade school (Ages 6 to 13)

  • School-age children need nine to 11 hours of sleep per night. Unlike during preschool or day care, naps are no longer a part of the daily routine with children in grade school. This is why an evening bedtime routine is necessary: Night time is likely their only time to get adequate, uninterrupted rest before attending a full day of school the next day — while balancing extracurricular activities throughout the week.

Older kids and teens also need support to make sure they are back into a bedtime routine. Try to discourage screen time, including phones, tablets, TV and video games, at least an hour before sleep.

What happens if your child doesn’t get enough sleep

Lack of sleep can cause short-term and long-term health consequences, including physical, mental and emotional issues. This is why prioritizing sleep nightly is so important for parents! Here are a few ways insufficient sleep can affect your child:

  • Behavioral and cognitive effects
    • Irritability and mood disturbances
      • Lack of sleep can cause increased irritability or mood swings. It can lead to more anxiety, or a child acting out behaviorally or having a tantrum.
    • Impaired attention and learning abilities
      • Kids who don’t get enough sleep can suffer at school, because it can cause difficulty with concentration, learning, memory and more.
  • Physical health implications
    • Weakened immune system
      • If a child consistently does not get enough sleep, the stress can weaken their immune system, increasing risks for infections such as colds or the flu.
    • Increased risk of obesity and chronic conditions
      • Insufficient sleep has been tied to other health conditions, such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.

Strategies for promoting healthy sleep habits in children

Establishing a consistent sleep schedule is a must when it involves kids getting enough sleep. This includes sticking to a bedtime routine — getting ready for bed at the same time and encouraging bedtime activities to wind down in preparation for falling asleep. If you’re wondering how to get your child on a sleep schedule, it helps to know this: Kids respond better when they can see simple instructions, and they are more likely to follow instructions when they play an active role in creating the rules.

For younger children, creating a visual bedtime schedule can help get their nighttime routine back on track. Visual schedules come in many varieties and are a proven positive parenting technique. The idea is to engage kids in identifying and completing the activities that lead up to bedtime.

When your visual schedule is ready, place it in a common area and encourage your child to refer to it as they complete each step leading to bedtime. If one activity takes too long, it may be appropriate to skip a step in order to make it to bed on time.

Encouraging bedtime routines and rituals

Collaborate with children about establishing a bedtime routine, even if they are very young — kids are creative and like to feel like they are making choices for themselves. Work together with your child to decide on key bedtime activities, such as putting away toys, taking a bath, brushing teeth and reading a book. Take photos of your child completing these steps (or find similar images). Together with your child, decide on the order in which these images should be arranged. Use poster board, markers and stickers to decorate the step-by-step routine.

Some additional ideas to prompt good sleep habits include:

  • Have a family talk to decide on a bedtime that includes eight to nine hours of sleep.
  • Discuss ways to limit use of electronics, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime.  
  • Avoid strenuous exercise or eating big meals in the hours before bed.
  • On weekends, keep a relatively consistent bedtime schedule. Even if your child stays up later, be sure they are waking up within a couple of hours of their normal wake-up time.


A consistent bedtime routine and adequate sleep are imperatives for children’s overall well-being. Prioritizing healthy sleep habits is an essential part of parenting, especially when children are in school. Parents should work to ensure their child gets the recommended number of hours of sleep per night. Be sure to check in with your child’s pediatrician about sleep habits before the kids are going back to school. The pediatrician can provide guidance and support if your child is experiencing any sleep disturbances or issues falling asleep.