Sleep - children and naps | Better Health Channel
Better Health Channel on twitter Connect with us via Twitter and share Australia's best health and medical info with those close to you
Close survey
Sleep - children and naps

Summary

Naps during the day can help a baby or child sleep at night. Even if your child sleeps well at night, they still need morning and afternoon naps until they are around two and a half to three years old. Try to settle your child for a nap before they become too overtired and agitated to relax.

Download the PDF version of this fact sheet Email this fact sheet

On average, a young baby needs around 14 to 15 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period, but this can vary from one child to the next.

Newborns and young babies often become drowsy while they are feeding. Babies aged six months and over are less inclined to fall asleep while feeding. They may also learn how to keep themselves awake and parents may have to devise new strategies to help their older baby relax and go to sleep.

Toddlers need, on average, around 10 to 12 hours sleep per night, and still need daytime naps. A child’s sleeping routine at night can be severely disrupted if they don’t get enough sleep during the day, or if their afternoon nap is too close to bedtime.

Signs of tiredness


Try to settle your child for a nap before they become too overtired and agitated to relax. The signs of tiredness in children of various ages include:
  • newborns – staring, jerky movements of the arms and legs, clenched fists, frowning, yawning, irritated behaviour including crying.
  • older babies – loss of interest in toys or playing, fretfulness, yawning, separation anxiety, irritated behaviour including crying, eye rubbing, a change in physical activity (more or less activity).
  • toddlers – clumsy physical movements, tasks take longer to perform, irritated behaviour including crying, emotional tension.

Insufficient sleep causes problems


Children of all ages need adequate sleep and rest. Babies may have trouble feeding properly or finishing their feeds if they are tired. Older babies and toddlers may be more difficult to handle, since tiredness often translates into crankiness and tears.

Even if your child sleeps well at night, they still need a morning and or afternoon nap until at least around the age of two and a half to three years.

How daytime can affect night-time


Your child’s night-time sleeping habits may be disrupted by their daytime naps. For example, if they don’t sleep during the afternoon, you may find they are too tired to eat their evening meal. As they are so tired, you put them to bed early. However, if they wake in the early hours of the morning, it is difficult to know if it is from habit or hunger.

Why some children resist sleep


Some of the reasons why older babies and toddlers may not want to take a nap include:
  • They don’t want to be by themselves.
  • They don’t want to miss out on any activity.
  • They are too excited, restless or anxious and can’t relax.
  • Their daytime routine doesn’t always include naps.
  • They are hungry or thirsty, or have some other physical discomfort.

Suggestions for daytime naps


Suggestions to help your child to settle for a nap include:
  • Make sure your child has plenty of fresh air and physical activity.
  • Establish a routine so the child expects to have a nap at certain times.
  • Give your child time to relax beforehand with gentle activities. Perhaps you could read them a story.
  • Make sure they are comfortable, fed and wearing a fresh nappy.
  • Provide your child with an opportunity to settle themselves. Then, if they are anxious without you, stay in the room for a few minutes.
  • After 12 months some children may be comforted by a special object or toy. However, first check recommendations for safe sleeping and avoiding SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
  • Leave their bedroom door open so they can hear you moving around the house.
  • Even if they don’t nap, the rest is still beneficial.
  • Put them in a darkened and quiet room.

Where to get help

  • Your doctor
  • Maternal and child health nurse
  • Parentline Tel. 132 289
  • Tweddle Child and Family Health Service Tel. (03) 9689 1577
  • Maternal and Child Health Line (24 hours) Tel. 132 229

Things to remember

  • Children of all ages need adequate sleep and rest.
  • A child’s sleeping routine at night can be disrupted if they don’t get enough sleep during the day.
  • Even if your child sleeps well at night, they still need morning and/or afternoon naps until at least around the age of two and a half to three years.

You might also be interested in:

Want to know more?

Go to More information for support groups, related links and references.


This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:

Tweedle Child and family Health Services

(Logo links to further information)


Tweedle Child and family Health Services

Fact sheet currently being reviewed.
Last reviewed: July 2012

Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.


If you would like to link to this fact sheet on your website, simply copy the code below and add it to your page:

<a href="http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Sleep_children_and_naps?open">Sleep - children and naps - Better Health Channel</a><br/>
Naps during the day can help a baby or child sleep at night. Even if your child sleeps well at night, they still need morning and afternoon naps until they are around two and a half to three years old. Try to settle your child for a nap before they become too overtired and agitated to relax.



Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your qualified health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residence and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a qualified health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

For the latest updates and more information, visit www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au

Copyight © 1999/2014  State of Victoria. Reproduced from the Better Health Channel (www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au) at no cost with permission of the Victorian Minister for Health. Unauthorised reproduction and other uses comprised in the copyright are prohibited without permission.

footer image for printing