Baby Sleep Needs by Age

I am working on a sleep training series where I will outline the various methods, from no-cry to cry, but I don’t think it makes sense to write that until I have written out how much sleep we can expect our babies and toddlers to get. If our expectations are too high, we could be trying to sleep our children too often (yes I’m using “sleep” as a verb!) and it will become frustrating for everyone. If our expectations are too low, we might not sleep our children often enough, they may become overtired and irritable, making sleep training more difficult and it will become frustrating for everyone.

How much sleep does your child get now?

The first step you should take is to log your child’s sleep for a week to get an average number of sleep hours in 24 hours and take note how much of it is during the day and how much at night. Only write down times they are actually asleep (or quiet if you’re not sure), not when you tried to get them to sleep.

Some children are very consistent and you can almost set a clock by them, while others are very inconsistent taking different length naps at different times and waking up at a different time each morning. We’ll talk about how to regulate that a bit in a different post, but one thing is for certain and that’s the average amount of sleep in 24 hours stays relatively constant. However, children can and will move sleep from day to night, and vice versa, fairly easily.

How much sleep can you expect from your baby or toddler?

Below is an outline of the average sleeper. By definition, this means some will be on the lower end of sleep needs and some on the higher end. However, it is generally accepted that most babies and toddlers under 2 years old will not need less than 10 hours of sleep at night to be the optimum restoration for their little bodies.

  • 6 months and younger: 11-12 hours night, 3-4 hours day in 3-4 naps.
  • 6 to 9 months: 11-12 hours night, 2-3 hours day in 2-3 naps
  • 9 to 18 months: 11-12 hours night, 2-3 hours day in 1-2 naps
  • 18 months to 3 years: 10-12 hours, 1 nap
  • 3 to 5 years: 10-11 hours, sometimes 1 nap (most lose between 3 & 4)
  • 5 years+: 9-10 hours, no nap

These are just general guidelines. My toddler was still napping at just past two, but then started going to sleep too late at night (9 or 10pm), so we dropped his nap for him, early, to get more night sleep and he started sleeping 12-13 hours at night. Note: I do not recommend dropping the last nap unless absolutely necessary. This was just an example. Combining the averages with your sleep log gives you a starting point in establishing healthy sleep habits. If your child is getting far less than the averages, you will need to take a long, hard look at the reason and determine if it’s healthy or not.

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6 thoughts on “Baby Sleep Needs by Age”

  1. Hi there! I’m hoping for some quick guidance – my newly 3 year old has been wavering between nap and no nap days for about 2 months now (was every other day, now he has not napped for 4 days straight). When he does nap, he wakes at 5:30-6a, then naps at 1p. I usually have to wake him up at 4p. Then, he goes to bed at 8pm and usually doesn’t fall asleep until 9pm. But, if he doesn’t nap he sleeps from 6:30p-7:15a straight with a rest time at 1p (in which he literally will not stop talking or singing the entire time – he is not a quiet child!). He doesn’t wake during the night, either. However, for this last 4-day stretch, he has been incredibly behaviorally challenging at points, tantrumed (which he normally doesn’t do), and will talk about being tired at 9am (but will not go to sleep, and he also only sleeps in his crib – he’ll never fall asleep in the car). Is it best to continue putting him to bed early, but then waking him up earlier in the morning like he was doing when taking a nap during the day to keep a nap within his schedule? Or should I let him sleep for 12-13 hours at night and go with the flow of no naps despite its affect on his behavior? I’m not sure what the best path is.

    Any help is appreciated! Thank you!

    • Hi Lindsay,
      Thank you for using The Baby Sleep Site as a resource! I’m sorry to hear you’re having some trouble with your 3 year-old’s nap. I’m not a sleep consultant, but based on your description of what’s going on, I would consider whether you could shorten his nap first, rather than just eliminating it if he seems unready. Most children his age are taking a 1-2 hour nap in the afternoon, which does bring up bedtime a lot earlier for you, and would give him enough sleep to make it through the late afternoon/ evening without getting grumpy.
      If that doesn’t work, or isn’t a good option for your family, I’d recommend talking to a sleep consultant as a next step, either through our Member Chat or through a consultation package. Good luck!

  2. My baby from 5 to 7 weeks so far is only sleeping 10 hpurs in a 24 hour period wont nap durimg the afternoon

    • Hi @Amber – Thank you for writing to us and congratulations on your new baby! I’m sorry to hear you’re having some trouble with your baby’s sleep, but you are certainly not alone! If you haven’t yet, you can sign up to receive our free guide written just for families with young babies, “15 Baby Sleep Facts New Parents Need to Know” here:
      We do offer a few more in-depth solutions for parents who need more help with their young infant’s sleep needs. Our e-book, Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep, may be a good option for you. In it, we give you a complete toolkit to help your baby establish healthy sleep habits today and throughout the first year.
      You can read more about our wonderful newborn options here:
      Good luck Amber and thank you again for writing!

    • @Gunjan – Thank you for stopping in to our sleepy little village. Beginning to lay the foundations for healthy sleep habits from the newborn stage can go a long way in ensuring your son gets the total sleep he needs. It’s common for babies this age to sleep in spurts though we do generally expect to see more than 8 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. You want to be sure that his environment is conducive to sleeping well – not too hot or cold or loud or bright during the day, for example.

      It also could be that your little guy is too tired to sleep well. You can try to watch for his “sleepy” signs in order to be able to put him down to sleep before he becomes overtired. Once a newborn becomes overtired, he can become very fussy leading to you having to put forth quite some effort to soothe him in order for him to be able to go sleep. Short naps are often very common as well. Here is an article that helps explain young babies’ sleeping patterns in more detail:

      We do offer a more personalized approach that may also work for you, if you’d like. Our e-Book, Essential Keys to Your Newborn’s Sleep, is all about infants and sleep (how much they need, how to handle it when they aren’t sleeping or prefer to sleep on you, etc). You can read more about that here:

      I hope this is helpful to you, Gunjan. Please stop in to see us again soon.

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