A to Z Sleep Solutions – Sleep Schedules
By Heather Kucenski – Certified Sensitive Sleep Consultant (East Valley – Arizona)
Schedules and timings certainly vary for different age groups. The younger the child, the more sleep they need and the shorter the wake windows.
When a child is first born, for the first few weeks there really isn’t much of a schedule. Newborns average 4-7 hours of daytime sleep with 8-12 hours overnight. They have short wake windows of only 45-90 minutes with feedings every 3 hours.
As they begin to age towards four months, their circadian rhythm starts to mature and they start to develop melatonin, starting to pave the way in knowing the difference between morning and night. Once a baby weighs 9 lbs, we know they can begin to sleep for 5-hour stretches overnight. We still look for 11-12 hours of overnight sleep with 3 naps consisting of 3-4.5 hours of daytime total sleep. Awake windows should not exceed about 90 -120 minutes. It is still expected at this time for babies this age to be waking up to eat 1-2x a night.
At five months, a child is now old enough to begin to learn to self-settle. For the next few months, wake windows extend from 2.5-3 hours. Overnight sleep remains at 11-12 hours with daytime total sleep at 3-3.5 hours, divided yet into three naps. It is still common for babies to need 1 overnight feeding at this age.
At ages six to nine months, babies start solids. With 11-12 hours of overnight sleep, it is in this range that daytime naps drop from three to two. Daytime total sleep averages 2.5-3 hours. Wake windows tend to be 3-4 hours.
At ages nine to twelve months, babies are established at two naps a day for a total of 2.5 daytime total hours. Eleven to twelve hours of overnight sleep is always what is preferred and allowed. Finger foods and milk may be started at this time. Wake windows stay between 3-4 hours.
During the ages of 12 months-18 months, comes a period of transition of naps, going from two down to one. Daytime total sleep needed is 2-2.5 hours. Wake windows extend from 4-5 hours. This may be a time of trial and error, as a child may start to skip the morning nap or take longer to fall asleep in the afternoon as a result of the morning nap.
As a child turns two years old, we look at 11 hours of overnight sleep with one nap of about two hours. Wake windows can be 5-6 hours. Things may get tricky with a toddler beginning to skip nap or fight nap, in which case they should be put down early by 30-60 minutes if they do not get their daytime sleep. At age 2.5, we might start to see that naps don’t happen more often. This is generally the youngest a child may grow out of needing their nap.
At age three, overnight sleep reduces to 10.5 hours with a possible 1.5-hour nap during the day (if the child still takes one). If a child takes longer to settle or fights to go to bed in the evening, chances are it is time to give up the daytime nap.
At age four, we look at stopping the daytime nap. More than likely a child is facing difficulty with settling for sleep in the evening such as not falling asleep until late as a result of this daytime charge. Once the nap no longer happens, the child should settle rather easily at an earlier time. We still aim for about 10 hours of overnight sleep.