Normal Sleep - Preschoolers 3 To 5 Years
Normal Sleep - Preschoolers 3 To 5 Years
Tamariki need sleep to grow and develop. Sleep needs vary and change as they grow. Your child's sleep needs may differ from other children their age. Knowing what to expect at each stage helps you understand their sleep needs as they grow.
Key points on sleep in children aged 3 to 5 years
- most preschoolers need around 10 to 13 hours of sleep at night
- some preschoolers will still take a nap during the day
- having a consistent bedtime routine can help your preschooler settle to sleep
- sleep is important for your child's growth, immunity, learning and memory
- if you have concerns about your preschooler's sleep, seek support from a trained healthcare professional
This page is about sleep in preschoolers. It's part of a whole section on normal sleep.
My preschooler's sleep - what to expect
As preschoolers grow and develop, their sleep will continue to change. A preschool age child will generally sleep for around 10 to 13 hours at night. Some may still take a nap during the day lasting around an hour.
Some preschoolers may be difficult to settle at night. This is often because they’re busy thinking about their day.
Sleep cycles in children
Everyone cycles between different sleep cycles while they sleep.
After about six months of age, a child’s sleep cycle contains:
- rapid eye movement (REM) sleep
- non-REM sleep
REM sleep is also known as dream sleep. Non-REM sleep consists of both light and deep sleep. It is hard to wake a child during deep sleep, but they will wake from light sleep easily. The amount of non-REM and REM sleep in a cycle will change over the night.
Children have a lot of deep non-REM sleep just after falling asleep. They often sleep soundly in the first few hours after going to sleep. Children are more likely to wake in the second half of the night which is when they have more REM and light non-REM sleep.
As children get older, their sleep cycles get longer. A toddler around 3 years old will have sleep cycles lasting around 60 minutes. At 5 years old a child will have a sleep cycle of around 90 minutes, the same as an adult.
Will a bedtime routine help my preschooler sleep?
A bedtime routine can be helpful for getting your child off to sleep, especially if their routine is consistent throughout the week. Most preschoolers are ready for bed around 7.30pm.
A positive bedtime routine can help calm your child ready for sleep. This may include things such as:
- having a bath and cleaning their teeth
- reading a story
- singing some songs
- having a cuddle
- saying goodnight and turning out the light
It is important to keep the bedtime routine the same even on weekends to help your child feel calm and ready for sleep.
What if my preschooler is having sleep issues?
It can be common for preschoolers to go through periods of difficulty with their sleep. This can be challenging for parents and caregivers to manage.
Is it normal for my child to keep calling out at bedtime?
Your preschooler may go through a stage of getting up or calling out after they've gone to bed. To try to help this, you could:
- have a regular bedtime routine to help calm them
- avoid enthusiastic play and screen time just before bed
- make sure your child has a peaceful sleeping environment that is dimly lit and not too hot or cold
- make sure your child has everything they need before you leave the room, such as their favourite toy
- if you want to establish a routine that doesn't involve going to your child each time they call out, try to be consistent and respond only if you think they really need something.
Sometimes your child might actually need something. If they do, keep the lights low and deal quietly with what they need. They may settle after you've taken care of what they need. Sometimes a night light can help if your child is scared of the dark.
Where can I get support?
If you have concerns about your preschooler's sleep or you feel like they’re not sleeping well, it is important to reach out for support.
Call PlunketLine 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 0800 933 922.
PlunketLine is available 24 hours a day for advice and support for you, your child and your whānau. Calls are free from cell phones. You do not need to be registered with Plunket to use this service.
Call PlunketLine on 0800 933 922 for parenting advice.
Call Healthline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 0800 611 116.
Healthline provides free advice to parents and whānau if they’re worried your child may be unwell. They can help find services nearby such as an afterhours medical centre if you need to see a doctor.
Your GP or doctor
If you are worried that your child is unwell or showing signs of distress or pain, see your GP so they can check your child. You can also talk to your GP if you are needing extra support with adjusting to life with a preschooler.
See more KidsHealth content on normal sleep at different ages
This page last reviewed 04 April 2023.
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