Welcome to Healthy Dudley. This is the new public health website.

Sleep

Safer and Better Sleep

Information for Parents and Carers of children aged 1-5.

 How can sleep support toddlers and pre-schoolers?

Sleep is a natural process that not only helps to support our immune system but also regulates our body’s hormones so we can grow and repair our organs, muscles, and other cells. Sleep is important for toddlers and pre-schoolers to settle their minds and help them be happier throughout the day. Good sleep helps to improve attention, behaviour, learning and memory.

How much sleep does my child need?

It’s recommended that toddlers aged 1-2 years get 11-14 hours of sleep per day and that at aged 1-3 years, children need 12-14 hours of sleep throughout a 24-hour period. This includes nap time throughout the day.

Young toddlers might take two naps, but over time this will reduce to one nap of 1-3 hours. Naps should not be too close to bedtime, as they may make it harder for toddlers to fall asleep at night.

All babies and children need to be supported to develop a good sleep routine and good sleeping habits. It is a process that will take time and can’t be achieved in a few days. All babies are different and will start sleeping through at different times.

More information on recommended sleep times, visit How Much Sleep Does My Child Need?

What are the different types of sleep?

There are two basic types of sleep. 1. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep 2. Non-REM sleep (which has three different stages).  You cycle through all stages of non-REM and REM sleep several times during a typical night.

At bedtime, some children fall deeply asleep very quickly. Others sleep lightly, fidget and mutter for up to 20 minutes, before getting into deep sleep. The first few hours of sleep are usually the deepest. Most dreams happen in the second half of the night.

Watch this BBC video about the different types of sleep for more information.

What can happen if a child doesn’t have enough sleep?

If a child has a lack of sleep, huge effects can be had on their physical health, mental well-being and behaviour. They may feel fatigued, lack energy, get headaches, have concentration or memory issues, have a weakened immune system, feel stressed and become irritable, can have reduced reaction times and changes to their appetite.

 Are there any rules for daytime napping?

  • Daytime naps can provide much needed downtime that aids the important physical and mental development that happens in early childhood.
  • They prevent young children and babies from becoming too tired. They also give parents time in the day to have a break, relax or have some time to complete daily tasks.
  • There’s no single rule about how much daytime sleep kids need. It will depend on their age, the child’s personality, and the sleep total during a 24-hour period.
  • It is important to note that if your child is napping ‘on the go’ (for example in the car), this needs to be balanced with naps in their own beds so they can get the best quality sleep over the week.

What are common night-time issues for children?

Struggles to settle/ fall asleep

Bed wetting

Teeth grinding

Sleep walking

Sleep talking

Night terrors

Nightmares

For more information visit Sleep problems for parents and carers.

Why can a child struggle to sleep?

Many factors can lead to sleep problems. Sometimes pre-schoolers can take a while to settle and get to sleep. An increase in toddlers motor, cognitive and social abilities can interfere with sleep, alongside their drive for independence.

A young child’s ability to get out of bed once they learn how to walk; their feelings of separation anxiety and the development of a child’s imagination have been reported of causes of sleep deprivation in young children.

Other reasons why young children may struggle to sleep include:

Environment

Lack of bedtime routines

Watching TV or using electronic devices until late at night

What might support my child to have better sleep?

Fortunately, there are many practical ways to develop and improve your child’s sleeping routine and habits. Here are a few suggestions that may help your family:

  • Set a bedtime that is consistent, communicated and enforced.
  • Maintain a consistent sleep schedule, waking up and going to sleep at the same times (or within an hour of normal times even at weekends and holidays).
  • Create an enjoyable bedtime routine. Start a “winding down” bedtime routine 20 minutes before the time that your child usually falls asleep. Set a limit on how much time you spend with your child when you put them to bed. For example, read only 1 story, then tuck your child in and say goodnight. Listening to calming music or doing some relaxation can be helpful in this time too. If they would like, allow your child to take their favourite toy, or comforter before settling into bed.
  • Bath, Book, Bed is a very simple routine to follow every night with young children to let them know it will soon be time for bed. Find the Bath, Book, Bed Book Trust resource in the resources section for support with trying this approach to bedtime.
  • Leave a beaker of water within reach and a dim light on if necessary.
  • Create a regular ‘sleep friendly’ environment- check the noise and the light in your child’s room. A child’s nigh time space should be quiet, dark, and smoke-free. (Blue light from televisions, computer screens, phones and tablets suppresses melatonin levels and delays sleepiness).
  • Avoid screen use (including TV, mobile phones, tablets and computers) an hour before bed
  • Avoid boisterous play, this can make it harder for a young child settle.
  • Have an evening meal at a reasonable time- feeling too full or too hungry before bed can make it harder for a child to fall to sleep.
  • If your child is genuinely hungry rather than trying to delay bedtime, offer a high in fibre and/or protein snack (rather than sugar or carbohydrates). Snacks such as nuts, peanut butter, Greek yogurt, hummus, eggs, beans, tofu, berries, and whole grains are all good examples. Snacking should be encouraged as early as possible (i.e. before bath/ shower and brushing teeth time).
  • Try to avoid caffeinated or high sugar products, such as fizzy drinks, sweets and tea, particularly during the afternoon and evening.
  • Encourage your child to get as much natural light as possible in the day, especially in the morning.
  • Make sure your child feels safe at night- if your child feels scared about going to bed, praise them for being brave and offer reassurance if they are anxious. Avoid scary computer games and TV shows before bed. Some children with bedtime fears feel better when they have a night light.
  • Talking through a child’s feelings and worries about bedtime can be helpful to understand their thoughts and feelings. For some children, talking through or drawing pictures of their bad dreams can help them process and share what is going on in their lives.
  • Remind your child to stay quietly in bed.
  • If your child gets out of bed, calmly ask them to go back to bed. Say that you’re just in the other room. Repeat this firmly and quietly until your child doesn’t get up again.
  • Praise your child when they make positive changed to their nigh time routine.

How do I know if my child needs further support?

Although it is common for people to experience sleep problems, if your child experiences sleep problems regularly, you may need some support or advice.

Persistent sleep problems can affect your child and your whole family, so it’s important to seek help.

The first step is talking with your GP. You may then be referred to a paediatrician, psychologist or other health professional who is trained in identifying and treating sleep problems in children.

How can the Cost-of-Living Crisis affect a child’s sleep?

You may be worried about how to keep your children warm this winter with the cost-of-living crisis. You may be concerned about paying your bills, trying to keep your home warm, keeping draughts out and keeping your baby warm.

The recommended room temperature is 16-20 degrees. Keeping your children at the right temperature during the night can be challenging. As our body temperature drops overnight, children may wake up if they are too cold. It can be tempting to wrap your child up to keep them warm, however it is important that they do not get too hot either.

Here are some helpful tips from the sleep charity to help keep your children warm at night this winter, but in a safe and cost-effective way.

Finding support

If you are worried about or struggling to pay your bills do seek help, the
following may be able to help:

National debt helpline

Step Change

Are there any useful resources to support child sleep?

Relaxation Tips- The Sleep Charity

Bath Book bed Leaflet- Book Trust

The Calm Sleep App Stories for Toddlers

What are the sources used for information on this page?

The Sleep Charity

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

CAMHS

NHS- Healthy sleep, Sleep and young children

Book Trust