What’s normal? A baby sleep chart based on scientific research

© 2008-2014, Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved

Here it is: An evidence-based baby sleep chart derived from information published in the influential journal, Pediatrics. It’s based on the average sleep times associated with a large sample of babies born in Switzerland.

If that sounds very culture-specific, consider that all sleep charts are based on the behavior of very specific populations.

At least, that’s true of the evidence-based charts.

Most of the published sleep charts that I’ve seen don’t cite any scientific evidence at all in support of their claims. Moreover, there are NO charts that can tell you exactly how much sleep your baby needs to be healthy.

When pediatricians recommend sleep times, they are making guesses based on what is normal or average. Nobody yet has done any medical research on the optimal amount of sleep for babies, let alone the personal needs of your baby (Matricciani et al 2013).

So until such research becomes available, average sleep times may represent our best source of information. This chart reports on the sleep patterns of 493 Swiss children tracked from birth (Iglowstein et al 2003). Over a 24-hour period, total sleep times for these kids were approximately as follows:

Interpreting the chart

What do these numbers mean for your baby? It’s important to remember that these are population norms, not medically prescriptive, optimal values.

As noted above, nobody knows for certain how much babies should sleep. And baby sleep patterns vary considerably, both from individual to individual, and from culture to culture.

For instance:

  • Babies living the U.S., U.K., and Asian countries may be getting, on average, one hour less total sleep each day than did the babies in the Swiss study (National Sleep Foundation 2004; Blair et al 2012; Kohyama et al 2011).
  • Breast-fed babies sleep less than formula-fed babies (Quillin and Glenn 2004).
  • Babies living in highly urban environments sleep less than babies living in less built-up areas (Bottino et al 2012).

For more details—including help interpreting this baby sleep chart—please check out this article on baby sleep requirements.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Content last modified 2/14