Expert Health Articles

Sleep Hygiene for Children

"How is your child's sleep?” This is one of the questions I would ask most of the patients at the office, especially during their well-child visits. It is very important for children of any age to have healthy sleep, in order to have well physical and mental health.

In general, a good night's sleep plays a significant role in children's mood and behavior. It could reduce aggression, hyperactivity, depression and anxiety, and increase attention during the daytime in children. On the other hand, if your child has a lack of sleep or has a poor quality of sleep the night before, you would see your child show more irritabilities and fussiness behaviors, especially in younger children.

Studies show that setting up good sleep hygiene or sleep habits could help most children and improve their quality of life the next day. Below are some tips you could start with your child's special situation.

First, we need to realize that children of different ages require different amounts of sleep. The table below indicates the amount of sleep your child needs on a regular basis. You could establish a constant routine bedtime based on your child's age.

Your child’s age

Recommended sleep time in 24 hours

Infants 4 to 12 months

12 to 16 hours including naps

Children 1 to 2 years

11 to 14 hours including naps

Children 3 to 5 years

10 to 13 hours including naps

Children 6 to 12 years

9 to 12 hours

Teenagers 13 to 18 years

8 to 10 hours


At the same time, consistency is the key. Try to stick to the same routine bedtime as much as possible, even in different houses or environments. Kids who stay up too late during weekends usually would mess up the following week’s sleep schedule. So, try to stay at the same scheduled time as much as possible.

Predictability is another helpful tip to set up a bedtime routine, especially for younger children. We usually recommend parents to use “3 B Rules”: Brush teeth, Book, then Bed. The process may take about 30-60 minutes for each child, which would also provide calming time and promote relaxation for your child.

Limit the stimulants around bedtime, including limiting screen time or high stimulant activities before bed. Turn off the television, tablets, video games and cellphone about one hour before your child’s bedtime. These electronic devices could cause continuous mental stimulation for children and generate blue light that may decrease melatonin production.

Engaging in physical exercise during the daytime definitely helps your child to fall asleep more easily at night. One hour of exercise a day is highly recommended.

Meanwhile, sleep problems are common in children with ADHD, depression, anxiety or other mental health disorders. It also happened in children with neurodevelopmental disabilities, which may have a profound effect on the quality of life of the child and the family. Intervention for sleep problems in these children may need to involve more behavior and pharmacologic strategies.

If your child continues having serious trouble falling asleep and a consistent sleep routine is not working, please consult your child’s pediatrician or other health providers for further evaluation.


Ailing Chen, MD


Caughman Health Center