Sleep benefits and recommended amounts for children – tips from AboutKidsHealth

GUEST BLOG – Jessica Fishbein, AboutKidsHealth

A good night’s sleep is essential for a child’s wellbeing.

Sleep is important for a child’s mental and physical health because it gives their mind and body time to rest and recover. During the school year, sleep is especially important for kids as it can improve brain function. A well-rested child will be able to solve problems and retain new information more effectively than a child who is tired.

Children who are able to consistently get a good night’s sleep will be more equipped to:

• Concentrate on tasks for longer periods of time
• Make positive decisions
• Go through the day with more energy
• Create and maintain good relationships with other people

Signs and symptoms of lack of sleep

If your child does not get enough sleep every night, they may develop behavioural, cognitive and emotional symptoms over time. Some of these symptoms can include:

Physical symptoms
• Finding it difficult to wake up in the morning
• Falling asleep after being woken up, needs to be woken more than once
• Yawning throughout the day
• Feeling tired or wanting to nap during the day
• Preferring to lie down, even if it means missing activities with friends or family
• Falling asleep or seeming drowsy at school or at home during homework
• Regularly wanting to consume stimulants, such as caffeine or sugar
• May be sick more frequently due to reduced immune system function

Cognitive symptoms
• Lack of interest, motivation and attention for everyday tasks
• More forgetful
• Blurred vision
• Difficulty picking up new information

Emotional symptoms
• Increased moodiness and irritability
• Increased impulsivity
• Increased stress throughout the day

“Sleep debt” occurs when your child does not get enough sleep for many consecutive nights. A large sleep debt can cause your child to feel mentally exhausted and worsen symptoms of already existing behaviour, anxiety and mood disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder.


A good night’s sleep is essential for a child’s wellbeing.

Sleep recommendations

Every child is different – it is important to remember that sleep recommendations are only guidelines. Some children need more or less sleep than what is recommended for their age. Children need less sleep as they get older.

The Canadian Paediatric Society offers recommendations for young children of different ages. These recommendations are for a 24-hour period and include naps.


Age Recommended amount of sleep 
 Newborns (0 to 2 months)   16 to 18 hours (3 to 4 hours at a time) 
 Babies (2 months to 6 months)   14 to 16 hours 
 Older babies (6 months to 1 year)   14 hours 
 Toddlers (1 to 3 years)   10 to 13 hours 
 Pre-schoolers (3 to 5 years)   10 to 12 hours 
 School-aged children (5 to 10 years)   10 to 12 hours 


The National Sleep Foundation provides recommendations for older children and teens.


Age Recommended amount of sleep 
 6 to 13 years   9 to 11 hours 
 14 to 18 years   8 to 10 hours 


AboutKidsHealth is SickKids’ patient-education website and features more than 3,500 articles on a range of paediatric health topics. For more information on sleep, sleep tips for children and teens, and other topics, please visit