General information about sleep including helpful resources to support you and your family.

Getting into good sleeping habits is important for all of us. This can seem difficult at times when you have children, however, good sleep is important for your child’s physical and mental wellbeing as well as your own. The following links provide some excellent advice that you can follow for yourself with your family. If for any reason problems still persist, please contact your 0 to 19 team for further advice.

How much sleep does my child need?

Sleep is not under our control and cannot be forced. Up to around 3 months there is a huge variation in the amount of time your baby will sleep – it can range from just over 9 hours to 20 hours.

Sleep cycles are short at about 45 minutes. Your baby has a very small stomach and needs to feed around the clock to meet their needs. Although managing night feeds can be challenging, it is also a quiet time away from the business of the day.

It’s not until around 8-12 weeks that your baby’s circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) matures enough for them to begin to tell night from day. Babies have increased amounts of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep so will wake more easily.

It is thought that the sleep cycle and arousal from sleep is a protective mechanism against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). At this stage it is advised that you have your baby in the same room as you (day and night when sleeping), until at least 6 months of age.

Sleep is essential for your child’s growth and development. The recommended number of hours sleep for a child aged 6-13 is 9 to 11 hours.

Teenagers need about 9 hours of sleep a night.

Why is sleep so important?

Getting enough sleep is important for our physical and mental wellbeing. Getting the right amount of sleep will;

  • Improve concentration and attention span.
  • Give the brain time to ‘file’ in your memory what it has learnt in the day.
  • Let the body rest and repair – this helps to keep the immune system ready to protect from illnesses.
  • Reduce stress hormones and is good for emotional and mental health.
  • Making sure children and young people get enough sleep helps them keep well, thrive and reach their potential.

Healthy sleep habits

To help your child get the right amount of sleep it is good to teach them about healthy sleep habits, with a regular and consistent bedtime routine. This will help ensure your child wakes up feeling refreshed and better behaved.

Before bedtime aim for at least 30 minutes of quiet time, doing relaxing things such as a bath, put pyjamas on, clean teeth, go to the toilet, read a bedtime story, give your child a goodnight kiss and turn the lights off as you leave the room.

Feeling relaxed is important in the run up to bedtime for both parent and child. If your child is experiencing difficulties sleeping it can make you both feel anxious. Youngsters often pick up on stress levels so try to create a relaxing and calm environment as bedtime approaches. Find out more here

Nightmares and night terrors

Night terrors and nightmares are often confused as the same thing but the two are completely different.

Nightmares are unpleasant dreams, occurring in dream sleep (REM), that are remembered upon waking. A night terror takes place during non-REM sleep and involves feelings of fear, screaming, thrashing around and sweating while still asleep, and won’t be remembered the next day. More information on night terrors can be found here.

Nightmares are more common than terrors but neither cause any psychological harm to your child.

For some helpful tips on telling them apart and how to handle them click here

Emotional health and sleep

There’s a close relationship between sleep and mental health. Lack of sleep can affect mental health, but mental health problems can also affect how well you sleep – both the quantity and the quality of it – so it’s extremely important to address both issues. Any health professional will always enquire about both mood and sleep behaviour when making any kind of diagnosis.

For some helpful tips on telling them apart and how to handle them click here


As your child reaches their teens you will notice a change in their sleep patterns. Puberty and a huge period of brain development are happening.

The sleep hormone (called melatonin) gets released later at night in teenagers (about 10pm for adults and about 1am for teenagers). This means teenagers often go to sleep later and want to get up later too. It is a biological change and they cannot help it. Unfortunately it does not always fit in with school and family life.

It can be the cause of a lot of arguments as parents try to get teenagers to get up on time or settle down at a reasonable bedtime.

Teenage Sleep Facts

  • Teenagers need around 9 hours sleep a day. It is good for physical and emotional wellbeing
  • During sleep a teenager’s physical growth happens, controlled by the release of growth hormone during the night
  • Being rested also helps mood and concentration
  • Helping your child get rest can help them cope better with the ups and downs of teenage life.

Rules and Boundaries

It can take a lot of compromise and talking to come up with boundaries about bedtime that your teen can stick to. Encourage your child to;

  • Go to bed at the same time each night
  • Keep the room cool
  • Dim the lights
  • Turn off phones, computers and TV screens for an hour before settling down time. The blue light from screen time stops the sleep hormone from being released. You may have to make a ‘no phones in bedrooms’ rule after a certain time.

It is not easy to have bedtime disagreements with a teenager. Be consistent and calm. Good sleeping habits will help them keep physically and emotionally well.

Find out more about sleep and mental health from the Sleep Charity

Sleep and autism

Children often have sleep issues but for those on the autism spectrum, sleeping well may be particularly difficult. Take a look at to find some strategies that can be used to help your child sleep better.

Information to download

Who can help

If you have any more questions on sleep or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or contact our 0 to 19 Torbay health team and find out more about our sleep workshops.

Lots of people struggle to fall asleep at night. Thinking about school, people or events can leave you feeling restless. Even your diet or routine can affect your sleep. But there are things you can try. Click here for advice on problems sleeping

Kooth can help with information and advice

Sleep and tiredness advice from the NHS.
Reasons why you might feel tired and advice about what you can do to prevent tiredness.