Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders
Richard Ferber, MD, founder and former director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital, answers some of the most frequently asked questions about children’s sleep.
How much sleep should children generally get?
Young infants may sleep 12 to 13 hours total. But by six months, most children sleep only 11 to 12 hours total, and this number changes only slowly as children grow. Even by mid-childhood the number usually has not dropped below 10 hours.
How those hours are distributed may vary. In the first few months, a third or more may still occur in the day. But after three months, most should occur at night. Still, a child needing 12 hours may distribute it between the night and day as seven and five, eight and four, or nine and three. As the child gets to five months or so, he probably should be getting at least nine hours of sleep at night.
At what age should children stop napping?
Most children stop between the ages of three and four. Some stop at age two, and some continue until kindergarten.
Are some children just better sleepers than others?
There are some children who are naturally good and long sleepers, but basically all healthy, normal babies have the ability to sleep well. If they’re not, then a thorough understanding of the cause of the problem and implementation of corrective behavioral and schedule-related measures should normalize their sleep within a few days. Sleep medication is rarely ever necessary.
The sleep drive is very powerful in children, and if it’s understood and controlled properly, just about all children should be able to sleep pretty well.