The process of aging brings many changes, including differences to our sleep. Find out how your sleep needs change over your lifetime.
The amount and quality of sleep changes as we get older. Here’s a quick summary on how your sleep needs change over time, and the differences you can expect as you get older.
Anyone who has had a newborn knows that they sleep a lot. However, their sleep is usually in short bursts. On average, newborns sleep anywhere between 16-20 hours per day, with their sleep duration around 2-3 hours at a time, although some may sleep up to 4 hours. Newborns don’t know that night-time is the time to sleep, so it’s normal for them to wake several times during the night. At this age, they also need to be fed regularly, so they usually require a feed when they wake.
As they get older, babies sleep for longer periods and by 3 months may sleep for 4-5 hours. Some babies learn to sleep through the night by this stage, while others may take a while to learn this skill.
As babies get older, their sleep during the day lengthens and they spend larger chunks of time awake. It’s not unusual for a baby to have a morning sleep and an afternoon sleep.
Toddlers grow rapidly and therefore require a lot of sleep. On average, they will usually sleep for 10-12 hours a night, and have a nap during the day. Once asleep, toddlers will usually sleep right through the night. However, overnight toilet training also kicks in around this age, which can interfere with their sleep patterns. Toddlers also like to exercise their independence which is why many parents struggle to get their children into bed at night at this age. However, having a regular bedtime routine can help with this.
School-age and pre-teens
Sleep is important for your child’s growth, learning and development which is why it’s important that your school-age child gets plenty of good-quality sleep. This will help your child concentrate, remember things, and feel calm and happy. Between the ages of 5 -11, the average child needs between 9-11 hours of sleep. Bedtime routines for school-aged children are also important.
The teenage years herald more sleep changes, with them needing around 8-10 hours sleep each night. At this age, it’s usual for them to go to bed later at night and wake up later in the morning. In fact, it’s very common for parents to have a hard time getting teens out of bed in the mornings! Teenagers grow and develop rapidly and with changing hormone levels can experience mood swings. Regular sleep will help teens navigate this period so they can continue learning and concentrating at school, as well as have a healthy immune system and energy to get through the day.
Once we become adults, we require between 7-9 hours sleep a day. However, many adults struggle getting enough quality sleep. Busy lifestyles, stress, and electronics before bed are key reasons why many adults don’t get the required sleep each night. Just like children, many adults can benefit from a regular bedtime routine that prepares them for sleep. It’s also important to pay attention to how much caffeine or alcohol you drink if you struggle with sleep.
Older adults still require around 8 hours sleep each day, but they often struggle to get this in one block. Older adults may also find that it’s hard to get quality sleep due to issues related to aging, such as joint problems, incontinence or weak bladder issues, or general aches and pains. It’s also common for older people to revert back to the sleep patterns of very young children, which is why many of them have a nap during the day.
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