What’s normal?
An evidence-based baby sleep chart

© 2018, Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved

This evidence-based baby sleep chart can't tell you exactly how long your baby needs to sleep.

Researchers don't fully understand baby sleep patterns, let alone baby sleep requirements. 

But researchers have collected information from parents about their babies' sleep habits.

Based on these surveys, we have a pretty good sense of what's typical -- the normal range of variation that parents report.

So what does normal sleep look like in babies? 

The quick answer is summed up in this baby sleep chart. 

0-2 months.

  • Total sleep duration is 14-15 hours (average)
  • Ranges between ~ 12-16 hours for about half the population*
  • Ranges between ~ 9-20 hours for about 95% of the population
  • Most parents report multiple night wakings 
  • Total nighttime sleep duration approximately 8-10 hours*
  • Babies take 3-4 daytime naps (on average); more during the first weeks postpartum

3-5 months.

  • Total sleep duration is 13-13.5 hours (average)
  • Ranges between ~ 12-14 hours for about half the population*
  • Ranges between ~ 9-18 hours for about 95% of the population
  • Most parents report at least one night waking 
  • Total nighttime sleep duration is approximately 8.5 - 10.5 hours*
  • 50% -- or more -- of parents say longest sleep bout is at least 5 hours
  • Babies 2-3 daytime naps (average)

6-12 months

  • Total sleep duration is 12.5-13 hours (average) 
  • Ranges between ~ 12-14 hours for about half the population*
  • Ranges between  ~ 9-17 hours for about 95% of the population
  • Total nighttime sleep duration is 9-11 hours*
  • Most parents report at least one night waking 
  • Babies take approximately 2 daytime naps (average)

12-24 months

  • Total sleep duration is 12.5 hours (average) 
  • Ranges between ~ 11.5-13.5 hours for about half the population*
  • Ranges between ~ 10 and 15 hours for about 95% of the population
  • Most parents report approximately 5 night wakings per week (average)
  • Babies take 1-2 daytime naps (average)

* Nighttime sleep duration and range for middle 50% of the population derived from a study of Canadian and U.S. parents only (Sadeh et al 2008). 

Other estimates derived from review of multiple, international studies (Galland et al 2012). Numbers rounded to nearest 0.5.

Interpreting the baby sleep chart: Where do the numbers come from?

To create this chart, I have relied primarily on a meta-analysis by Barbara Galland and her colleagues (2012).

These researchers estimated average values for baby sleep statistics by combining data from studies conducted in Australia, Canada, China, Italy, Israel, Russia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Information in my chart about average total sleep duration, the range for 95% of the population, naps, night wakings, and the longest reported sleep bout reflects these values.

But Galland's team didn't provide estimates for every variable. For example, their analysis didn't include detailed data about the range for total sleep duration for half of the population. Nor did they report information about nighttime sleep duration.

So I used another source to fill this gap -- a survey of Canadian and U.S. parents (Sadeh et al 2008). 

We shouldn't assume that information from this North American study will be representative of babies internationally (see below).  

However, for every age group, the average total sleep duration for the North Americans was very close to the international averages. And the range for total sleep duration  looked roughly consistent with graphical information provided by Galland's team (figure 3, p. 218, Galland et al 2012). 

Regional and cultural differences

Averaging together international data is helpful for getting the big picture. But if we take a look at specific countries, we learn something more:

Studies report substantial variation from one society to the next.

For example, in a study conducted in Switzerland, the average total sleep duration for babies aged 6-12 months was about 14 hours -- an hour higher than the international average (Iglostein et al 2003; Galland et al 2012). 

And researchers have found evidence for a broad cultural trend. Children living in Asian countries tend to sleep less than do children living in Western, predominantly Caucasian countries (Galland et al 2012; Mindell et al 2010). 

Understanding individual differences

As you can see from the baby sleep chart, there is consideration variation.

What does this variation mean? Is there an optimal sleep duration for infants? Should you be worried if your baby sleeps less than average?

It's hard to answer these questions because researchers lack a clear understanding of the behavioral and health consequences of baby sleep patterns. We need more studies to sort this out.

As a result, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine has declined to offer concrete recommendations for sleep duration in babies under 4 months of age (Paruthi et al 2016).

For older babies (4-12 months), the Academy has advised that babies who get 12-16 hours every 24 hours are less likely to experience behavioral problems (Paruthi et al 2016).

But there is at least one reassuring observation for parents with babies who get less sleep than normal: For most of these babies, total sleep duration moves closer to average as they get older (Magee et al 2014).

And when researchers track these individuals over time, they have found no obvious long-term differences in emotional or social functioning. Infants who sleep less than average tend to be more irritable. But as long as sleep duration becomes more typical over time, kids seem to turn out pretty well (Magee et al 2014).

It's also helpful to keep in mind that the sleep times reported in this baby sleep chart don't reflect objective measures of how much babies sleep.

Instead, the reports are based on the (fallible) impressions of parents. 

In some studies, parents are asked to keep careful sleep diaries. In other studies, parents merely fill out brief questionnaires about their children's past habits -- questionnaires which they answer from memory.

Either way, parents can be wrong, and research suggests that parents tend to overestimate how much their babies sleep.

This is understandable, because parents don't lie awake all night to confirm what their babies are doing. If the night seems quiet, parents may simply assume that their infants are sleeping. But are they really?

When researchers have measured baby sleep using objective methods -- like continuous, overnight video recordings -- they've found that babies sleep less (and awaken more frequently) than parents realize.

For example, one study found that babies 6-12 months woke up, on average, about 3 times during the night (Goodlin-Jones et al 2001). Yet many parents with babies this age report only one waking per night.

For more help interpreting this baby sleep chart, see my articles about baby sleep requirements and baby sleep patterns.

Finally, one last snapshot of baby sleep patterns:
A baby sleep chart based on the reports of Swiss parents

The Swiss study mentioned above (Iglowstein et al 2003) included information about total hours of daytime sleep, a statistic that wasn't provided in the international analysis by Galland and colleagues.

For this reason, I offer this last baby sleep chart based on the Swiss research. But remember that baby sleep patterns may vary by culture and region. We can't assume that the average number of daytime sleep hours is the same in other places.

Baby sleep chart based on Swiss study (Iglowstein et al 2003)

References: Baby sleep chart

Blair PS, Humphreys JS, Gringras P, Taheri S, Scott N, Emond A, Henderson J, Fleming PJ. 2012. Childhood sleep duration and associated demographic characteristics in an English cohort. Sleep. 35(3):353-60.

Bottino CJ, Rifas-Shiman SL, Kleinman KP, Oken E, Redline S, Gold D, Schwartz J, Melly SJ, Koutrakis P, Gillman MW, and Taveras EM. 2012. The association of urbanicity with infant sleep duration. Health Place. 18(5):1000-5.

Galland BC, Taylor BJ, Elder DE, Herbison P. 2012. Normal sleep patterns in infants and children: a systematic review of observational studies. Sleep Med Rev. 16(3):213-22.

Goodlin-Jones BL, Burham MM, Gaylor EE, and Anders TF. 2001. Night waking, sleep organization, and self-soothing in the first year of life. J Dev Behav Pediatrics 22(4): 226-233.

Iglowstein I, Jenni OG, Molinari L, Largo RH. 2003. Sleep duration from infancy to adolescence: Reference values and generational trends. Pediatrics 111(2): 302-307.

Kohyama J, Mindell JA, and Sadeh A. 2011. Sleep characteristics of young children in Japan: internet study and comparison with other Asian countries. Pediatr Int. 53(5):649-55.

Magee CA, Gordon R, Caputi P. 2014. Distinct developmental trends in sleep duration during early childhood. Pediatrics. 133(6):e1561-7.

Matricciani L, Blunden S, Rigney G, Williams MT, Olds TS. 2013. Children's sleep needs: is there sufficient evidence to recommend optimal sleep for children? Sleep. 36(4):527-34.

Paruthi S, Brooks LJ, D'Ambrosio C, Hall WA, Kotagal S, Lloyd RM, Malow BA, Maski K, Nichols C, Quan SF, Rosen CL, Troester MM, Wise MS. 2016. Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine on the Recommended Amount of Sleep for Healthy Children: Methodology and Discussion. J Clin Sleep Med. 12(11):1549-1561.

Quillin SI and Glenn LL. 2004. Interaction between feeding method and co-sleeping on maternal-newborn sleep. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs 33(5): 580-588.

Sadeh A, Mindell JA, Luedtke K, and Wiegand B. 2009. Sleep and sleep ecology in the first 3 years: a web-based study. J Sleep Res 18: 60-73.

Content of "What's normal? An evidence-based baby sleep chart" last modified 5/2018

Image credits

image of sleeping newborn by Guian Bolisay/flickr