Sleep is vital, whether we're 50 years or 50 hours old. Many mental and physical health conditions — including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and attention difficulties — can plague children and adolescents if they don't get sufficient and quality sleep.  Children are also at a higher risk for injuries and delayed cognitive development when this important activity is missing.

Building a solid bedtime routine can help ensure your kids get enough sleep. While experts can recommend specific guidelines by age, it's important to remember that every child is different.

Newborn Bedtimes

The majority of newborns sleep 18 hours or more a day in their first three months. They tend to wake for brief intervals of 1.5 to 3.5 hours for feeding, changing, and socializing. Even during these periods of wakefulness, babies may drift in and out of a sleep state.

Children at this early stage of life don't have a set bedtime. Instead, babies sleep and wake as needed according to their natural body rhythms.

A new born baby girl sleeping Catherine Delahaye / Getty Images


Waking Periods Increase

As newborns grow and stay awake for more extended periods, a sleep routine and bedtime are now obtainable, much to the relief of parents. Around four months, babies begin to stay awake for 2 to 4 hours and generally only wake one time per night. Establishing a set bedtime between 8:00 and 11:00 pm is more realistic, at this point.

newborn baby sleeping Jomkwan / Getty Images


Older Infants

By the time infants are 6 to 12 months in age, bedtimes are more typical. Waking periods now last 6 to 8 hours and getting up through the night decreases or stops. Parents can start setting bedtimes as early as 6:00 pm or as late as 8. The length and frequency of daytime naps will impact this bedtime range and varies from child to child.

one year old boy sleeping with pacifier ljubaphoto / Getty Images


Critical Neural Development

As infants sleep, neural connections form. This critical brain development occurs during deep sleep. In fact, 1,000,000 neural connections form each second during a child's infant and toddler years. Bedtimes for infants, therefore, are critical.

A routine that includes a consistent and reasonable bedtime allows infants to fall asleep quicker and sleep longer, providing ample time for that essential cognitive development. It is important to note that naps during the day, while important, do not provide the deep sleep needed for brain development.

toddler sleeping nanausop / Getty Images


A Toddler's Busy Brain

Toddlers need 11 to 14 hours of sleep during each 24-hour period. Most children from ages one to three sleep about 12 hours per night and have a 1 to 2-hour nap during the day.

Toddlers' brains take in so many experiences during their waking hours. As active explorers of their environment, they investigate everything with zeal and curiosity. Not only is deep sleep when toddlers "lock-in" these new memories and the vital skills learned during the day, but a growth hormone produced in the pituitary gland is released right after toddlers reach deep sleep. This hormone not only affects physical growth but the development of vital organs, as well.

toddler sleeping with plush toy olesiabilkei / Getty Images


Best Bedtimes for Kids Age 1 to 3

Because their world is so stimulating, toddlers are the ultimate sleep- resisters. This common refusal to close their eyes makes a bedtime routine even more important at this age. Children may seem as though they are never tired, but they generally need a solid 10 hours of sleep every night.

Optimal toddler bedtimes are between 6:30 and 7:30 pm — their deepest sleep occurs between 8:00 pm and midnight.

little girl sleeping d3sign / Getty Images


Sleep in the Preschool and Early Primary Years

The preschooler's brain is continuing to develop, building abilities for self-care in addition to critical neural connections. At this age, children are learning how to "wind down" after a busy day. As well as fostering this burgeoning independence, the routine of a regular bedtime for 2 to 4-year olds teaches discipline and provides a sense of security.

little girl sleeping while embracing toy fizkes / Getty Images


Bedtimes Vary for Ages 4 to 6

Across the preschool years, bedtimes vary greatly. Children turning four may still be taking naps, while older four and five-year-olds may no longer need these midday rests. Bedtime for children of this age will depend on this and other factors but tends to fall between 7:00 and 9:00 pm. Preschoolers require ten to twelve hours of sleep per night.

boy sleeping in bed Tetra Images / Getty Images


Challenges for School-Age Kids

As children get older, increased homework demands, sports, and other extracurricular activities keep them active later into the evenings. Unfortunately, these activities sometimes cause school-age kids not to get the recommended amount of sleep each night. Though they're building positive social structures, insufficient sleep can lead to sleep disorders, including night terrors, teeth grinding, sleepwalking, and snoring.

young boy asleep on living room couch Stephen Simpson / Getty Images


School-Age Kids Still Need Bedtimes

Children with sleep disorders have difficulty regulating emotions and may show signs of hyperactivity. Further, sleep deprivation interferes with concentration, recall, and creativity, which may cause them to struggle in class.

An average of 10 hours of sleep is ideal for kids under 10, but again, this is highly variable: many do well with just nine hours, and others may need twelve. Now is not the time to give up on bedtime routines and consistent bedtimes. School-age bedtimes between 7:30 and 9:00 pm seem to work best.

boy sleeping in bed Siri Stafford / Getty Images


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