Every few months, the sleep pattern of young children changes. It is not always easy for parents to keep up. It is important to find the right balance between sleep phases during the day and long nights sleep. If the children sleep too much during the day, they are often only tired enough to fall asleep in the late evening hours. If the nap is too short, the little ones are angry and have a long time to get back in their good mood.
It is therefore helpful for parents to keep in mind how many hours of sleep a child needs, depending on its age, to develop healthily. It is important to understand that the times given are average values, so they can vary greatly from person to person. Some children need more sleep, others manage with less. These differences are genetic.
The ideal length of sleep in the various stages of childhood
“The crucial criterion for how much sleep you actually need is how you feel during the day. If your offspring feels fit, well-rested and mentally balanced, it was enough sleep at night, “writes sleep expert Hans-Günter Weeß in a guest article for FOCUS Online.
Weeß summarizes the required sleep duration in the different age groups:
- newborn sleep between 15 and 18 hours a day. The sleep intervals last three to four hours. They have not yet adapted to the light-dark cycle, which is why they often have waking phases at night.
- Already in the course of the first year of life children sleep primarily at night and have only short periods of sleep in the morning and afternoon. By the second birthday, the need for sleep is about 13 to 14 hours a day.
- Elderly two to three years there is only one nap during the day. The need for sleep is reduced to 12 to 13 hours. At the beginning of kindergarten age, this biphasic sleep-wake behavior often has to be abandoned with an afternoon nap.
- Between third and fourth years of life the afternoon nap becomes less and less important. Especially if you have difficulty falling asleep at night, it may make sense to reduce your afternoon nap further or to do without it altogether. Children between the ages of three and four sleep on average between 11 and 13 hours.
- With the beginning of primary school age On average, children sleep between 10 and 12 hours a day.
- With the pronounced physical changes of puberty is also accompanied by a temporarily higher need for sleep. Up to an hour, teens sleep more again, and even the afternoon nap becomes more popular again. In total, it can be nine to ten hours of sleep during this phase.
Sleep is essential for brain development
Adequate and plenty of sleep is essential for the development of a healthy child and above all for the maturation of the brain. This is how the brain’s nerve cells are connected during sleep. The more complex the wires, the better the children’s future cognitive, emotional and social As a board member of the German Society for Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine and head of the interdisciplinary sleep center at Pfalzklinikum Klingenmünster, he has been dealing with the subject of sleep for more than 25 years and has published several books on the subject.
Weeß explains the importance of healthy sleeping habits: “A US study was able to show that if people between the ages of three and seven do not get enough sleep, problems with their ability to think and social behavior can arise. There are also “The risk of physical illness, mental illness and obesity remains high.”
Because children develop, they generally need more sleep than adults. If they get too little sleep over a long period of time, it can weaken their immune system, making them more susceptible to infections. Their physical and mental development may also be impaired by lack of sleep.
Young children need a nap in the afternoon
Alfred Wiater, a sleep doctor, pediatrician from the German Society for Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine (DGSM), also emphasizes the importance of children’s sleep behavior. He told “Bild”: “Basically, a regular sleep-wake cycle in children is important from the start because it can prevent sleep disorders. If a child is in shape during the day after a sufficiently long and restful night’s sleep, there is no need for an afternoon nap. This is already the case for about half of the three-year-olds. ”
The recovery value of the night’s sleep is greater than the afternoon nap, because at night there are several sleep cycles with light, deep and dream sleep, the doctor explains. The afternoon nap, on the other hand, is lighter and shorter. Nevertheless, it can compensate for the negative effects of lack of sleep at night and help children’s memories to store what they have learned and rediscover it later.
When the nap may recede
He provides some clues that parents can use to identify when naps can be skipped:
- The child refuses to take a nap in the afternoon
- The baby is half an hour or more about to fall asleep at noon
- The child does not get tired in the evening
- The child needs a lot of time to fall asleep at night
- The child wakes up at night and seems rested, may even want to play
- The child is balanced and attentive even without a nap
Most sleep experts also agree that a regular bedtime routine, as well as regular sleep and wake times, can help establish healthy sleep patterns in children. A darkened room also promotes falling asleep faster because the brain is able to produce the sleep hormone melatonin when there is no sunlight, or even better when it is dark. It makes you tired and promotes sleep.
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