How much Sleep Is Enough for Your Baby?

Latest update: September 20, 2018

Author: Heidi Holvoet, PhD

Seemingly exhausted baby

How much sleep is enough? There are two ways to answer this question:

  • Observe (useful checks below)
  • Compare average amounts (listed below)

A combination of these two will give you the best idea about your little one's required hours.

The first option, even though subjective, is in fact the most reliable. Your child's behavior are the best signs of how much is enough because perfectly tailored to her.

Checking the average amounts (hours) at different ages can be a useful, objective, indicator. At the same time it's important to take the numbers for what they are: averages. That means there is a lot of room for variation.

Is my baby sleeping enough?

By paying attention to your boy or girl's behavior, you can find out whether he or she is sleeping enough, or too little.

She's not tired ...

A baby who does not sleep enough will be over-tired. Over-tiredness is not always easy to recognize because it doesn't necessarily show as sleepiness.

On the contrary: an over-tired baby or toddler may be very active, bouncing up and down till long past bedtime ...

However, being over-tired makes it much more difficult to settle for a restful nap or night.

And that makes it a very common myth: parents with a young child who does not fall asleep before say 10pm at night, often wrongly think that she is not tired. In most cases though, the reason is over-tiredness.

Shifting to an earlier bedtime and/or overall balancing the daytime sleep schedule (naps) - sometimes drastically - is the solution: you will almost certainly see better settling into longer stretches.


How is your baby?

  • Is she happy, alert and nicely active most of the time?
  • Is she healthy and does she feed well? 
  • Does she wake up refreshed after a nap or in the morning?
  • Does she settle for naps/nights and wake up at regular times, without you waking her up?

When you answer yes to these questions, your baby is quite probably sleeping enough. Keep coming back to these questions if you are in doubt in the future.

Of course it is normal for your little one to be fussy and cranky from time to time, but if it is most of the time, then she may not be rested enough.

If she often crashes while playing or at moments where she wouldn't normally sleep, that may also indicate too little sleep.

If she's paler than usual and easily falls ill, that may also be an indication.

If needed, help your baby sleep more. The best way is to start at the basics: install a bedtime routine and a regular daily schedule that fits her age and is flexible enough for her needs.

No Tears Naps (aka "Nap in a Snap"), my step-to-step nap guide, gives detailed instructions to help understand your little one's needs and how to pour those into a good-fit daily routine for optimal naps, which in turn result in optimal nights.

What do you think?

Does she get much less sleep than you expect? Do you feel she should get more at this age?

Most parents think their babies do not get as much as they should, although that is not necessarily the case. We would just love to get longer naps and nights, but unfortunately, a lot of babies just cannot - and do not need to - sleep as much as we would like.

How much sleep is enough, theoretically?

A very easy way to check whether your little one is sleeping enough: write down for a couple of days how much she sleeps during the day and at night. Then compare to the numbers below. Too easy, unfortunately: the numbers only show how an average, based on reserach studies.

Accurate as averages, they're not super reliable for how much is enough for your baby. So use the numbers as a soft guideline, and focus on assessing your baby's behavior and feelings, as discussed. above.

About the numbers

The numbers shown, whether on this site or elsewhere, are always average sleep hours. They are not based on what would be best for any child, but on how a given group of babies sleep, on average. The numbers are also regional and culture dependent. [1]

Please look at the numbers that way and remember that they are not absolute.

An average of 17 hours a day, means that there are also newborns who sleep 23 hours a day and others who do no more than 11 hours.

I can testify: at 1 month my son slept a total of 12 hours during the 'night', zero during the day...

If you worry about your little one sleeping too much or too little, never hesitate to consult your doctor.

On average, a newborn sleeps 17 hours per day. They wake up about every four hours. This is the same during the day and at night.

From 1 to 3 months old, an average infant will do about 7,5 hours during the day and 7,5 hours during the night in total but not without waking in between.

Between 3 and 6 months old, daytime sleep decreases to about 6 hours (2 or 3 naps). Nights become a bit longer with 9 hours on average, and fewer awakenings than before.

Between 6 months old and 1 year, 2 naps on average give 4 hours of daytime rest. Nighttime is 10 hours on average of which on average 6 hours non-stop.

Between 1 and 4 years old, total average decreases to about 12 hours a day. Between the age of 3 and 6, daytime naps will disappear (naps are very regional and culture dependent and often related to (pre)school age).

You may also find the graph below interesting. It was published by the National Sleep Foundation in gives an interesting overview.

National Sleep Foundation sleep averages

Comparing with other babies

A third option to answer the How much sleep is enough? question we all use at some point is comparing with other babies. Interesting as this may be, it is mostly unreliable, because all babies are so different to begin with.

Worse, it can be quite frustrating to hear your friends report about double the hours you get ... If that happens, please don't pay too much attention - chances are those reported numbers are exaggerated, and in any case sleep needs are individual. Simply go through the checks above and you may find you are doing absolutely fine and in fact have the best suited arrangement for your little boy or girl.

However, if there is room for improvement, start with the basics discussed in the sleeping through the night pages.

Resources

[1] Sleep Duration From Infancy to Adolescence: Reference Values and General Trends Ivo Iglowstein, Oskar G. Jenni, Luciano Molinari and Remo H. Largo Pediatrics, 2003;111;302-307 doi: 10.1542/peds.111.2.302.