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Understanding Preschooler Sleep Needs & Problems

How long should a pre-schooler sleep? Do they need daytime naps anymore? What should I do if my preschooler has night terrors? Are bedtime routines really necessary? Is it normal that my preschooler still wakes up during the night?

Preschooler sleep may not be as talked about by parents as they do with their newborn, but it is equally as important. To function at an optimal level, a preschooler needs between 11 to 13 hours of sleep a day. Some of this sleep may happen during a daytime nap, with the remainder overnight. 

Today we’re focused on answering the questions from above, helping you with any preschooler sleep concerns.

Healthy Preschooler Sleep Habits to Aim For

You’ll already be aware through personal experience (clue – having a baby), of the devastating effects a lack of sleep can cause. Grumpiness, irritability, excessive anger, unmotivated, inability to focus and disturbed eating habits are just some of these effects. These make ensuring your preschooler gets the right amount of sleep very important.

As a parent, you’ll be wanting to aim for your preschooler to achieve anywhere between 11 to 13 hours a sleep a day. For both napping and non-napping preschoolers, this makes bedtime around 7 pm, with a wake up of around 6 am. If still having an afternoon nap, this could be taken back slightly to 7:30 pm if needed. 

It's important to remember though, that some kids are biological night owls, with internal clocks that want a later bedtime. It could take some trial and error to find the right bedtime for them, but doing so can reduce the pressure on both parents and child.

Many preschoolers stop daytime naps between the ages of three to five years, having given them up completely before starting school. As a parent, I appreciate how handy those naptimes are, but it’s no use continually pushing them onto your child if they won’t sleep then anymore. Instead at this time, give your preschooler some quiet time so they can wind down and relax.

Ideas On How to Achieve Optimal Preschooler Sleep Habits 

You’ll already know many of the sleep-inducing ideas here, but we wanted to work through them again. We’re also adding some preschooler specific ones you may be unaware of. 

  • Use wind-down time – an hour or so before bedtime, introduce quiet or wind-down time. Remove devices and screens, encourage quiet play and read stories. This will help your child’s mind and body to recognise that sleep time is near.
  •  Use a regular bed – if they haven’t already, it is time to transition your preschooler into a regular bed. 
  • Keep to a set sleep schedule – this means keeping naps and bedtime at the same time each day, regardless of weekends or other events. 
  • Use a regular bedtime routine – a bedtime routine helps set the scene in a way for the evening.  For example, bath, pyjamas, teeth and story steps.
  • Bedroom environment – keep your child’s bedroom dark, cool and quiet. Using a  nightlight is fine, and  white noise playing in the background can help block out unnecessary sounds outside the room.

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