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Children and sleep: how does the way they sleep change in their first 3 years of life?

18/02/2019

Children and sleep: how does the way they sleep change in their first 3 years of life

Have you ever noticed how, in the space of 3 years the way your child falls asleep, and how they sleep, changes radically?

The first sleepless nights, between tears and feeds. The period when they only fall asleep when held in your arms, then the stroller and finally in their crib, but with a nightlight for company. Then they begin to nap on the sofa while watching cartoons after dinner and carrying them in your arms from the lounge to their bedroom.

The point is precisely falling asleep and the changes which accompany it. The different stages, the routines which change as they grow, with the season, the location, the time, simply, the mood of the day. There is also the way parents must respond to these changes, the ability to recognise the signals, interpret them and make the right adjustment.

Ensuring children have a correct sleep cycle is fundamental to correct and balanced development.

Regular sleep ensures children will have a proper sense of well-being and serenity. The first three years in the life of a child is a highly sensitive period when they acquire a correct rhythm and proper sleep cycle. In fact, to ensure a healthy lifestyle during infancy, it is essential to make sure your children sleep for the correct amount of time and they have quality sleep. 

Let’s take a look at how sleep rhythms change during the first 3 years of life.

From 4 to 12 months

Between 4 and 12 months of age, the recommended daily hours of sleep vary between 14 and 16. At 4 months of age, the child’s brain matures and, as a result, their sleep patterns change; in fact, each child, before falling into a deep sleep, will also experience a stage of light sleep.

Between 1 and 2 years of age

In children between 1 and 2 years of age, the average number of hours each day which are dedicated to sleep is 13. In this age group, sleep is more regular and children tend to be less restless meaning that not only are their nights more peaceful, but those of their parents, as well!

Up to 3 years old

For older children, the number of recommended hours of sleep vary between 10 and 13. At this age, children learn to have a “restful” sleep which is sufficient to carry them through the entire day.

Each change, from the smallest to the greatest, requires a settling in period and you parents can help you children through this step. Try to establish a set bedtime for the littlest ones: do not vary bedtimes and try to instil a sense of regularity in the youngest children!

As with all things in life, there will be an adjustment period with regard to falling asleep, a transition between one way of sleeping and another, from the crib to a bed.

Therefore, the role of the parent is to understand our limits and strengths, and use them to facilitate the transitions our children will experience.

It will be the same for both the transition from crib to stroller and from the sofa to a bed without being overly discouraged if, for the first few times, there may be a tantrum or two.