As any parent who's had to deal with a grumpy child during the day will know, it's incredible important for kids to get a decent amount of sleep. But how much is enough?
The question of how much sleep children need is one that's been long debated over the years, with medical experts and parents weighing in...and kids just wanting to stay up for five more minutes.
If they're used to going to bed when they want, they aren't going to like you changing their bedtime. So stay firm and be prepared for a few tough nights.
And just think, you could soon have the TV (and the sofa) all to yourself!
Have you lot really little ones who are struggling to sleep? Our baby sleep guides cover everything from the moses baskets to buy and how to start dream feeding right to the ultimate baby sleep guide, ideal if you're at a loose end with a newborn.
Here's our guide to what time to get little (and big!) ones in bed, along with our recommendations for how to make a bedtime routine a little easier.
How much sleep do children need?
You might be wondering how much deep sleep your little ones need and therefore what time you should be sending them off to bed. It's important to agree a reasonable time with your child, and communicate to them properly when their bedtime is.
You can't expect a 10 year old to go to bed at 7pm, but they shouldn't be staying up until 11pm either. No matter what anyone tells you, especially your child, children need more sleep than you do.
Bedtimes according to age
This guide from the NHS shows how much sleep kids need in hours and minutes, looking at both day and night from birth to being a teenager.
One week Daytime hours: Eight hours Night time hours: Eight hours and 30 minutes
Four weeks Daytime hours: Six to seven hours Night time hours: Eight to nine hours
Three months Daytime hours: Six to seven hours Night time hours: Eight to nine hours
Six months Daytime hours: Three hours Night time hours: 11 hours
Nine months Daytime hours: Two hours and 30 minutes Night time hours: 11 hours
12 months Daytime hours: Two hours and 30 minutes Night time hours: 11 hours
Two years Daytime hours: One hour and 30 minute Night time hours: 11 hours and 30 minutes
Three years Daytime hours: 45 minutes Night time hours: 11 hours and 30 minutes
Four years Night time: 11 hours and 30 minutes
Five years Night time: 11 hours
Six years Night time: 10 hours and 45 minutes
Seven years Night time: 10 hours and 30 minutes
Eight years Night time: 10 hours and 15 minutes
Nine years Night time: 10 hours
10 years Night time: Nine hours and 45 minutes
11 years Night time: Nine hours and 30 minutes
12 years Night time: Nine hours and 45 minutes
13 years Night time: Nine hours and 15 minutes
14 - 16 years Night time: Nine hours
Why should you never wake a sleeping baby?
"New parents are often told to never wake a sleeping baby and, whilst this rings true in most cases, the repercussions are not as detrimental as some myths make out." Jumaimah Hussain, parenting expert at Kiddies Kingdom tells GoodtoKnow.
But during a baby's first months, it's important to prioritise their sleep and take advantage of the downtime it gives parents.
Jumaimah says, "As you would expect, stirring a sleeping baby will make them agitated and unsettled, so parents should only do so if it is really necessary.
"However, some exceptions do apply. If a baby is sleeping regularly throughout the day but struggles to settle at night, parents will need to wake them to protect their evening routine. Likewise, if they are due or have slept through a feed, they will need to be woken as to not disrupt their feeding pattern.
"This is more prevalent with new borns as they need to be fed around once every three hours in order for them to gain sufficient weight."
Should babies nap after 5pm?
As to whether babies should nap after 5pm, it's all about making sure that their natural biological response that makes them want to go to sleep is triggered.
Heather Darwall-Smith, London Sleep Centre sleep & insomnia therapist says, "Alongside light exposure, our sleep drive is a natural biological response that makes us want to go to sleep. Without enough of this drive, adults and babies alike aren’t able to settle easily or sleep for long.
"So, think about the timing and length of naps. Naps are important, but naps late in the day can reduce the sleep drive to send baby to sleep at bedtime."
To protect a baby's sleep drive, a baby sleep aid could be beneficial. This could be something as simple as baby black out blinds, which will block out any unwanted light exposure and help your baby (and perhaps, you too) sleep for longer.
Child sleep age chart
If you're looking to work out how much sleep your child needs, a sleep age chart or calculator is a good way to work it out.
This one from home specialists Hillary's is perfect, as it works out what time your child should go to bed based on their age and the time they need to wake up at. Ideal to get them wide awake and alert for school on time, it works for all children aged four and above.
How can lack of sleep affect children?
Getting the right amount of sleep for a child can be as important as healthy eating and regular exercise to ensure that they're developing properly.
When children don't sleep enough it can affect other parts of their lives like concentration at school or craving sugary foods in the day. It's important to get your little one off to bed at a decent time and in a good routine to ensure that they can make it through the day, cutting down on over-tired tantrums and difficult behaviour.
A new study has revealed that the earlier your child goes to bed, they are less likely to become obese later in life.
Sarah Anderson, an associate professor of epidemiology at Ohio State University said, 'Preschool-age children whose bedtimes are at 8 or before were half as likely to be obese 10 years later.'
Researchers tracked the sleep of children at the age of four-and-a-half-years-old, and compared this to the child's BMI at the age of 15.
There was a clear between healthier weights of teens, if they had grown up with earlier bedtimes.
Getting children into a bedtime routine
So now we know how much sleep kids need, how exactly do we get them off to sleep? It's important for babies to have a routine and there are many ways you can settle them down to sleep safely in a good quality cot. But older children also need to be lulled into sleep and given the opportunity to wind down and relax.
However, it has to be appropriate for their age and your lives. It should also involve things they like doing too. Reading stories together, or listening to audio books can calm them down very quickly. So can a hot drink and a cuddle, or chatting about their day.
You can negotiate a slightly later bedtime during school holidays or for special occasions, but make sure they understand these are occasional events, not a sign you're getting soft!
Warn them in advance
It's only fair to let little ones know what you're planning and why. Explain that you don't think they're getting enough sleep and from now on, bedtime will be at a fixed time, every single night. They can complain all they want, but you're in charge and you won't be changing your mind.
Make bedtime a pleasure not a punishment
Children love hearing about what you've been doing, especially if they've been at school or you've been at work and they haven't seen much of you. Putting aside a few minutes to chat about both your days could help make bedtimes something to look forward to.
Ignore the phone during this time if you can. It will distract you both too much.
Build in 30 minutes reading time if they complain they aren't tired. This can be a great way to encourage them to read the best books for kids, favourites old and new, and strengthen their love of reading. But make sure their light gets switched off at an agreed time.
Listen to their complaints
When they complain about going to bed , which they will - don't ignore them.
Be kind but firm in what you say to them. Children often think staying up 'late' is a sign they're growing up so be sensitive to this. Point out that they still go to bed much later than younger brothers and sister and give them a bedroom clock so they can see for themselves what time it is.
If they can't tell the time this should encourage them to learn!
Common bedtime problems solved
If they keep getting out of bed or coming into your bed Just take them back to bed, however many times it takes. We know this could be exhausting so start at the weekend when you don't have to get up for work or school. And remember, consistency is key here.
They're wide awake for hours If they're used to staying up late, it will take time for their body clocks to adjust to an earlier bedtime so let them read until they're sleepy and stay firm. Don't be fooled into thinking they don't need 'much sleep.' It's far more likely they're just hyped-up and over tired.
And while these might not be quick fixes, they are great to help settle children in for a peaceful night's sleep.
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Grace Walsh is a health and wellbeing writer, working across the subjects of family, relationships, and LGBT topics, as well as sleep and mental health. A digital journalist with over six years experience as a writer and editor for UK publications, Grace is currently Health Editor for womanandhome.com and has also worked with Cosmopolitan, Red, The i Paper, GoodtoKnow, and more. After graduating from the University of Warwick, she started her career writing about the complexities of sex and relationships, before combining personal hobbies with professional and writing about fitness.
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