Developmentally Appropriate Sleep Expectations: Birth to Age 5

Below is an outline of realistic expectations for your child’s sleep in the first 5 years. This timeline draws from various sources, and it is important to note that many studies and well-respected sleep sources vary some in their average hours of sleep and naps.

This is a guide, not a goal. Remember the best way to tell if your baby or toddler is getting enough sleep is to look at them. They will help you know the right amount of sleep for them. It’s also important to know that there are not many good studies on the number of naps and wake periods, even though many people claim to know the “ideal” wake and nap times, so take the ones mentioned as an experience based guide, not hard science. Additionally, the night time sleep ranges provided take into account some night waking for feeding and soothing.

Temperament and household patterns will also affect your child’s sleep patterns. Some babies need much more sleep than others, nap more or less than average, go to bed early/later than is typical, and need more or less parental support at night. The age when your baby/toddler/preschooler begins routinely sleeping for long stretches without need for you varies greatly. There is a wide range of normal.

Infant_Sleep_Education_DC

 

Newborn: 

Recommended amount of sleep in 24 hours: No official recommendation

Average sleep in 24 hours: 14-18, most commonly 16-18, spread over 24 hours

Typical awake time: 1-2 hours

Challenging sleep time: baby’s second night after birth and the 4th trimester

Notes on this age:

  • Babies usually have a few alert hours after birth followed by a longer period of sleep
  • Many babies are sleepy over the first 24 hours or so
  • The second night after birth many babies are very wakeful and want very frequent feeding
  • The first few months are known as the 4th trimester
  • Baby thrives when womb like environment is replicated
  • Baby does not want to be put down
  • Usually sleeps best in arms or worn in a baby carrier
  • Does not know the difference between night and day
  • Can use social cues to help baby learn night from day
  • Sleep cycles are very short, with half of each cycle spent in a light/active sleep
  • Needs frequent cue based feeding day and night

 

3 Months:

Recommended amount of sleep in 24 hours: No official recommendation

Average night sleep: 11-13  hours

Average day sleep: 3-6  hours spread over 3-4 naps

Typical awake time: 1-2 hours

Notes on this age:

  • One study found 46% of babies are waking at night
  • Another study found the average 3 month old wakes 2.7 times a night
  • Circadian rhythm (body clock) beginning to develop
  • More sleep is occurring at night
  • Frequent night waking and feeding is normal, although you may have a few longer stretches
  • May see sleep stretches of 4-5 hours
  • Baby may have 3 to 4 distinct naps during this time
Sleep_Education_Capitol_Hill

 

4-5 Months: 

Recommended amount of sleep in 24 hours: 12-16 hours including naps

Average night sleep: 9-12 hours

Average day sleep: 3-4 hours spread over 3-4 naps

Typical awake time: 90 minutes- 2 hours (possibly 3 at 5 months)

Challenging sleep time: 4 month sleep regression/progression

Notes on this age:

  • More frequent night waking due to developmental changes
  • Night feedings are important and common
  • Does not indicate readiness for solids
  • Babies typically drop from 4 to 3 naps during this time

 

6-9 Months: 

Recommended amount of sleep in 24 hours: 12-16 hours including naps

Average night sleep: 9-12 hours.

Average day sleep: 3-4 hours spread over 2-3 naps

Typical awake time: 2-3 hours (possibly 4 closer to 9 months)

Notes on this age:

  • Research studies show that between 39% and 84% of babies are still waking at night, and that only 16% of babies are reliably sleeping through the night, every night. 
  • About 60% of 6 month olds sleep for a 5 hour stretch or more with some regularity
  • 6-7.5 months is known as a sweet spot, a good time for making changes
  • One study found that 58% of 9 month old babies wake at night
  • Only 40% of 9 month olds sleep for a 5 hour stretch with some regularity
  • May sleep in stretches of 4-5 hours, but waking still common
  • Night feeds still important and common
  • Earliest age babies should be in their own room for SIDS reasons
  • Usually babies drop from 3 to 2 naps during this time
  • When napping twice a day, may develop a 2, 3, 4 wake nap rhythm
Sleep_Support_DC

 

9-12 Months: 

Recommended amount of sleep in 24 hours: 12-16 hours including naps

Average night sleep: 9-12 hours

Average day sleep: 2.5-4 hours spread over 2 naps.

Typical awake time: 3-4 hours

Challenging sleep time: 9 month sleep regression/progression

Notes on this age:

  • One study found 58% of 9 month old babies and 55% of 12 month old babies wake at night
  • Only 40% of 9 month olds sleep for a 5 hour stretch with some regularity
  • Most babies need parental support to fall back asleep
  • More frequent night waking and need for parental contact is normal
  • Separation anxiety plays a key role in baby’s behavior
  • Frequent night feedings are important due to distraction in day time and developmental milestones
  • When napping twice a day, may develop a 2, 3, 4 wake nap rhythm

 

12-18 Months:

Recommended amount of sleep in 24 hours: 11-14 hours including naps

Average night sleep: 9-12 hours 

Average day sleep: 2-3 hours spread over 1-2 naps

Typical awake time: 3-4 hours moving to 4-6 approaching 18 months

Challenging sleep time: 12/13 month and 18 month sleep regression/progression as well as middle of the night wakefulness

Notes on this age:

  • 55% of 12 month old babies wake at night
  • 50% of 12 month old babies need their parents to help them fall asleep
  • May be able to transition between sleep cycles without parental support
  • Night weaning is developmentally appropriate and easier the closer you get to 18 months
  • Night weaning is not necessary, however, and night time feeds are still normal and common
  • Middle of the night/very early morning wakefulness for an hour or two is common
  • Baby usually drops to 1 nap during this time
  • Enough movement, outside time, control in life, and connection with parents all affect sleep
  • Common for bedtime to be 5-7 hours after the end of nap once napping once a day
Sleep_Support_DC

 

18-24 Months: 

Recommended amount of sleep in 24 hours: 11-14 hours including naps

Average night sleep: 9-12 hours 

Average day sleep: 2-3 hours in 1 nap

Typical awake time: 4-6 hours

Challenging sleep time: 18 month sleep regression and in general the second half of this year can be more challenging than 12-18 months

Notes on this age:

  • Common to need more parental support than they did in the previous 6 months
  • May begin to develop night terrors and nightmares
  • Enough movement, outside time, control in life, and connection with parents all affect sleep
  • Common for bedtime to be 5-7 hours after the end of nap

 

2 Years:

Recommended amount of sleep in 24 hours: 11-14 hours including naps

Average night sleep: 9-12 hours 

Average day sleep: 1-3 hours in 1 nap

Typical awake time: 5-7 hours

Challenging sleep time: 2 and 2 ½ sleep regressions/progressions

Notes on this age:

  • 27 months is a sweet spot, a good time for making changes
  • Between 2-3 it is more common for toddlers to sleep all night without parent support
  • Night waking is still normal, especially if nursing and or bed sharing (likely our biological norm)
  • Sleep closely linked to behavior and life transitions
  • Potty training, new siblings, and starting preschool can all disrupt sleep
  • Enough movement, outside time, control in life, and connection with parents all affect sleep
  • Common for bedtime to be 5-7 hours after the end of nap
Sleep_Education_DC_Capitol_Hill

 

3-5 years:

Recommended amount of sleep in 24 hours: 10-13 hours including naps

Average night sleep: 9-12 hours 

Average day sleep: naps stop at some point

Typical awake time: 6 hours to all day

Notes on this age:

  • Ability for night time potty training, but bed wetting common until 7  
  • Common age for night terrors and nightmares
  • Potty training, new siblings, and starting preschool can all disrupt sleep
  • Enough movement, outside time, control in life, and connection with parents all affect sleep
  • Quiet time may be a good nap replacement