Sleep medicine

Sleep in preschoolers (3 to 5 years)

On average, preschoolers sleep between nine and 10 hours each night. The number of hours a preschooler sleeps will be different for each child but expect your preschooler to sleep for about the same amount of time each day.

Most preschoolers stop taking naps between 3 to 5 years old. All children normally awaken briefly throughout the night. However, a preschooler who has not learned how to fall asleep on his or her own at bedtime will not be able to return to sleep without help during the night.

Sleep problems are common during the preschool years, including nighttime fears and nightmares. Typically, these nighttime fears and nightmares are a normal part of development during this stage and will lessen over time. Sleepwalking and sleep terrors often first appear during the preschool years.

How to help your preschooler sleep well

  • Develop a regular sleep schedule: Your preschooler should go to bed and wake up about the same time each day, on a schedule that allows for adequate sleep. Also, be sure that your child is ready for sleep before being put to bed. In general, late bedtimes should be avoided. An early bedtime helps establish a routine that will be compatible with childcare and kindergarten start times.

  • Maintain a consistent bedtime routine: Establish a bedtime routine that is the same every night and includes calm and enjoyable activities. Avoid including television viewing as part of the bedtime routine. The activities occurring closest to "lights out" should occur in the room where your preschooler sleeps. Making a bedtime chart that shows all the steps of the bedtime routine can help keep a preschooler on track and help provide predictability.

  • Set up a soothing sleep environment: Make sure your child's bedroom is comfortable, dark, cool and quiet. A dim nightlight is fine but a television, computer or gaming system is not.

  • Set limits: If your preschooler stalls at bedtime, be sure to set clear limits ahead of time, such as how many books you will read.

  • Avoid caffeine: Do not allow your child to have caffeinated beverages or products as these may result in disrupted nighttime sleep.