Does he just need less sleep than most babies?

This is possible, but unlikely. While there is definitely a variability in the amount of sleep from one baby to another, if your child's is sleeping much less than the average baby (an hour or so) he probably does need more sleep. Babies and young children can be very good at tricking us into thinking they need less sleep than they
actually do.

The following may result in a child getting less sleep than he actually needs:
  • Inappropriate limit setting by parents (e.g. child wants to stay up so parents let him even though he really should be in bed)
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of routine or an inconsistent routine
  • The child wants something to help him sleep (e.g. being held) or wants to do something instead of sleep (e.g. play video games)
  • Psychological problem/s (rare)
  • Medical problem/s (rare)
  • You assume a nap (see Short Naps) or night time sleep (see Early Morning Awakenings) is finished before it actually is.

Generally preteen children will not sleep more than they need...which is ALOT! If you do have concerns though, certainly see your doctor about them.

Check out these posts on average sleep amounts:

Total Sleep - What's Average
Night Time Sleep - What's Average
Daytime Sleep - What's Average?
How Do I Know If My Baby Is Getting Enough Sleep?


  1. I have struggled a lot with my 14 month old son's sleep. The main issue is he will stay up for 2-3 hours motn. He was sleep trained at 10 months and he still keep getting up for hours motn. When we switched him to one nap and were able to achieve an early bedtime, he did start sttn, but then would wake super early like 4 or 4:30 am and not go back to sleep. Now he cycles between sttn for maybe 5-6 days, then waking up for hours for 3-5 days. Even when he sttn he generally will never sleep more than 10.5 hrs. He naps long, sometimes up to 3 hrs. But total sleep for the day is usually 12.5 and he seems tired most of the time. I was trying to aim for 10-10.25 total hrs of wt for the day, but he was having so many wakings. He seemed to sttn more when I aimed for 11 hrs total wt for the day, but he still woke early and seemed tired much of the time. What's your take on this? help!

  2. This does sound like a tricky situation! I think the main clue is that you said he seems tired much of the time. So we know the issue most likely isn't that he is napping too long or going to bed too early. I have to think that maybe the opposite issue is going on then. He is overtired which is causing him to wake up. Is he waking happy when he wakes at night, or is he upset? Do you keep going in to him when he wakes at night? It's possibly he has gotten into the habit of waking out of habit and the expectation that you are going to come to him.

    If he will only sleep 10 hours at night, it's possible he might need more napping during the day. Maybe he would actually do better on 2 naps still. Probably a shorter morning nap with a longer afternoon nap so bedtime isn't too late. It is hard to say what might help. The best thing to do is to keep a record of what he is doing and then switch things up a bit for at least several days at a time and see what he does. I know, no fun (don't you just wish you could enter a scenario into the computer and get a result right away?) but that is the best thing I can think of doing right now. Play around with the bedtime, nap times and lengths. Keep a record of how long he ends up sleeping at night. Whatever you do, make sure to keep things up for several days before switching to something else so his body has time to adjust. Sorry this wasn't much help. I'll let you know if something else comes to mind. Good luck. That sounds like such a frustrating and especially tiring situation! P.S. When he does wake at night, try to keep things as calm and boring as possible. No tv, no games, no talking, no lights. Don't give him a reason to want to be awake.

  3. we tried every possible combination of two naps and he was up for hours every night. When we switched to one nap he finally sttn for 11 hrs for the first time. he sometimes wakes up playing, sometimes crying, it's all different. We do checks every 30 min for crying, for playing we ignore. The checks are just making sure he isn't ill, and then telling him to go back to sleep. Last night he sttn 10.5 hrs and then took a 2.5 hr nap today. He seemed ok but did wake crying in the am and from nap. Who knows, I just feel like he needs more sleep but just won't do it. He's really a bad sleeper :(

  4. Anonymous,

    Just throwing stuff out although it sounds like you've probably tried everything.

    Maybe he needs less sleep at night than say 11 or 12 hours and will only sleep that long unless he is way overtired. so maybe he'd do better with like 10 hours at night (so a later bedtime and/or early wake time) and more naps during the day. This totally may not be the case but I'm just throwing stuff out.

    Often children will wake up crying if they haven't had enough sleep. This isn't always the case though, especially if they still have some difficulty sleeping by themselves (or even playing by themselves-the two can go together)

    Have you tried making sure he has TONS of physical activity. Some kids will be tired but not able to sleep if they don't run around a lot. I'd consider doing tons of physical activity, like hours a day at the park, to see if this helps get things back to "normal".

    It's interesting that he'll sttn for a few days then wake up for a few then sttn again. I wonder if the exhaustion from not sttn gets him so he does it again for a few nights. It's hard to say. I'd especially try to see if you notice any difference between these days/nights. Good luck! Sorry you're having such a hard time. Must be so tiring.

  5. yeah there doesn't seem to be any pattern to his wakings. we can do the exact same thing and get a good night one time and then a bad night the next. he plays by himself pretty well for his age I'd say - he can play by himself maybe 10 min in a different room from me and be ok(I can see him while playing).
    I do feel like it doesn't make sense that sometimes he sttn and others not, sometimes he sleeps an average of 14 hrs per day, sometimes 11, he is just all over the place. I think this just may be the way he is and there's not much we can do to change it...

  6. Anonymous,
    I agree, there are probably some kids out there that have sleep issues that are almost impossible to figure out. Or maybe the child has some kind of issues that are almost impossible to fix even if figured out. More time might be the thing that will help change things if nothing else.

    I have a random though. Have you ever heard of gina ford. She is a british sleep "expert" and gives very strict sleep schedules to follow in her books. I generally am not a fan of such strict schedules, especially bc I think she doesn't allow most children enough sleep, but who knows, maybe it would work for you. She tells you exactly how to structure naps and night time sleep, when to put your child down, when to get him up. She says the way she has her routines structured work and babies will sleep when they are suppose to. I can't really say for sure if it does bc I haven't known many people that have done her methods, but she is pretty popular where she's from so I assume it works. Anyway, just thought I'd throw that out since who knows, and I haven't been able to help much myself. Good luck!

  7. Hi,
    ive only just stumbled across this blog and it seems to have plenty of info on all things baby which is good for us first time mums. Im sure you've been asked this question a hundred thousand times but everyones storey seems to be slightly different to mine so I was wanting your opinion.
    Noah is 7.5months and seems to be having a bit of a sleep regression for his daytime sleeps. We have made so much progress from a month ago though when we co slept during the day to now him now self settling in his cot. The thing is he is only sleeping for 30 mins. down to the second! I know he knows how to self settle because he does it initially for every nap and for the 12 hours he sleeps at night time. I have tried going in as soon as he stirs but he seems to be wide awake, i've tried to let him cry it out, sometimes that will work, for instance with his lunch time nap I may get another 20 mins out of him. but with he's morning nap he doesn't seem to want to go back to sleep. He is a reasonably happy baby all other times of the day and sleeps all night without waking so i'm wondering if I should just let him have the shorter sleep in the morning but work on the lunchtime sleep being longer. Or if I should just carry on what im doing and eventually he'll sort himself out because he is a contented baby during WT. Im just a bit stuck at the moment so some advice would be great thankyou!
    Kate :)

  8. Thank you so much for everything on this site, Rachel! I have crawled all over it and though it's helped a lot, we are still struggling.

    My son is 8 weeks old and VERY alert, right from the start. I'm starting to think he doesn't need as much. He won't sleep more than 30 minutes at a time, and it's almost impossible to get him out in the evening. Yet he wakes up happy as can be.

    He sleeps in a Rock n Play, but I've tried putting him in his crib too. We stopped swaddling him because I can't figure out how to strap him into it, and so he fights it pretty hard when I swaddle him for his crib now. The sound machine seems to be helping him at night, as well as keeping a fan on. (At night he sleeps about 4.5 hours for the first stretch and then 2.5 after that... would LOVE to see that increase.)

    Anyway I'm just wondering if you have any other tips or can recommend a sleep training method for this kind of little guy. I've been trying the EWS cycle but with how little he sleeps and how often he wants to breastfeed (about 1.5 hours, more for the cluster feeding) it's not really working for us.

    Greatly appreciate any advice you can offer!! Thank you!


  9. Hi, my son is 16 months old. I've co slept with him since he was born. Now I need to get him sleeping in his own bed so I have been doing the Ferber method. Its the third day. He does pretty good at night, only needing 3 visits, however he will NOT nap this way. I just rocked him to sleep and put him in his crib and he's sleeping now for an hour. Is this going to mess with the night time sleep training? Would it be OK to try and get him sleeping at night with Ferber first and then start working on naps. I have a hard time hearing him cry and I don't want to do anything that'll hinder the progress, but I also want him to have naps. So my question is, would it be OK to still rock him to sleep during nap time until we get his night sleeping under control and regulated?