Information for Parents and Carers of children aged 1-5.
How can sleep support toddlers and pre-schoolers?
Sleep is a natural process that not only helps to support our immune system but also regulates our body’s hormones so we can grow and repair our organs, muscles, and other cells. Sleep is important for toddlers and pre-schoolers to settle their minds and help them be happier throughout the day. Good sleep helps to improve attention, behaviour, learning and memory.
How much sleep does my child need?
It’s recommended that toddlers aged 1-2 years get 11-14 hours of sleep per day and that at aged 1-3 years, children need 12-14 hours of sleep throughout a 24-hour period. This includes nap time throughout the day.
Young toddlers might take two naps, but over time this will reduce to one nap of 1-3 hours. Naps should not be too close to bedtime, as they may make it harder for toddlers to fall asleep at night.
All babies and children need to be supported to develop a good sleep routine and good sleeping habits. It is a process that will take time and can’t be achieved in a few days. All babies are different and will start sleeping through at different times.
More information on recommended sleep times, visit: https://thesleepcharity.org.uk/how-much-sleep-does-my-child-need/
What are the different types of sleep?
There are two basic types of sleep. 1. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep 2. Non-REM sleep (which has three different stages). You cycle through all stages of non-REM and REM sleep several times during a typical night.
At bedtime, some children fall deeply asleep very quickly. Others sleep lightly, fidget and mutter for up to 20 minutes, before getting into deep sleep. The first few hours of sleep are usually the deepest. Most dreams happen in the second half of the night.
Watch this BBC video about the different types of sleep for more information:
What can happen if a child doesn’t have enough sleep?
If a child has a lack of sleep, huge effects can be had on their physical health, mental well-being and behaviour. They may feel fatigued, lack energy, get headaches, have concentration or memory issues, have a weakened immune system, feel stressed and become irritable, can have reduced reaction times and changes to their appetite.
Are there any rules for daytime napping?
What are common night-time issues for children?
Struggles to settle/ fall asleep
For more information please see: https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health/parents-and-young-people/information-for-parents-and-carers/sleep-problems-for-parents
Why can a child struggle to sleep?
Many factors can lead to sleep problems. Sometimes pre-schoolers can take a while to settle and get to sleep. An increase in toddlers motor, cognitive and social abilities can interfere with sleep, alongside their drive for independence.
A young child’s ability to get out of bed once they learn how to walk; their feelings of separation anxiety and the development of a child’s imagination have been reported of causes of sleep deprivation in young children.
Other reasons why young children may struggle to sleep include:
Lack of bedtime routines
Watching TV or using electronic devices until late at night
What might support my child to have better sleep?
Fortunately, there are many practical ways to develop and improve your child’s sleeping routine and habits. Here are a few suggestions that may help your family:
How do I know if my child needs further support?
Although it is common for people to experience sleep problems, if your child experiences sleep problems regularly, you may need some support or advice.
Persistent sleep problems can affect your child and your whole family, so it’s important to seek help.
The first step is talking with your GP. You may then be referred to a paediatrician, psychologist or other health professional who is trained in identifying and treating sleep problems in children.
How can the Cost-of-Living Crisis affect a child’s sleep?
You may be worried about how to keep your children warm this winter with the cost-of-living crisis. You may be concerned about paying your bills, trying to keep your home warm, keeping draughts out and keeping your baby warm.
The recommended room temperature is 16-20 degrees. Keeping your children at the right temperature during the night can be challenging. As our body temperature drops overnight, children may wake up if they are too cold. It can be tempting to wrap your child up to keep them warm, however it is important that they do not get too hot either.
Here are some helpful tips from the sleep charity to help keep your children warm at night this winter, but in a safe and cost-effective way:
If you are worried about or struggling to pay your bills do seek help, the
following may be able to help:
National debt helpline: https://nationaldebtline.org/
Step Change: https://www.stepchange.org/hello.aspx
Are there any useful resources to support child sleep?
Relaxation Tips- The Sleep Charity
Bath Book bed Leaflet- Book Trust
The Calm Sleep App Stories for Toddlers
What are the sources used for information on this page?
The Sleep Charity- https://thesleepcharity.org.uk
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health- https://www.rcpch.ac.uk/resources/health-impacts-screen-time-guide-clinicians-parents