How Much Sleep is “Enough”?

Ever since our little bambino arrived, it seems that sleep is an issue that is at the forefront of our thoughts and an extremely common topic of conversation among other parents.  Everyone wants to know how much sleep our little bundle of joy is getting each night, and by default, how much my beautiful bride and I are getting.  Why?  Well, it seems that there is one constant about sleep…parents don’t get much with a newborn.

As for the question, “How much sleep is enough?”…I’m finding that like for many open-ended questions such as this, the answer is “it depends.”  Infants, babies, and toddlers have different sleep requirements and as you can imagine, adults have different sleep requirements.  So just how much sleep is “enough”?

How Much Sleep Do Babies Need?

Child Age Amount of Sleep Needed
Newborn – 6 months: Infants need about 16 to 20 total hours of sleep per day (and usually wake every two or three hours to “eat”).  By about four months, most babies sleep 10 to 12 hours at night (with a feeding or two) and nap for three to five hours of sleep a day (spaced between two or three naps).


 6 – 12 months: At this age, babies typically sleep about 11 hours at night (many straight through) and take two daily naps that add up to three to four hours.


1 – 3 years: Most toddlers need 10 to 13 hours of sleep, which includes an afternoon nap of one to three hours.



How Much Sleep Do Adults Need?

It seems as if 8 hours per night on average gets used a lot.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve always struggled to figure out how much sleep I actually need.  Sometimes I get 8 hours and I wake up tired.  At times, I’ve had more than 8 hours, say 10ish, and I wake up tired.  On the other hand, I’ve had 4 hours and I wake up alert, but can’t seem to sustain that daily.  Confusing….

As for now, this is what I’m observing about my sleep patterns during these first four weeks at home with our newborn.

Week 1: We were sleeping in 2-3 hour chunks at best during the night and hopefully getting some naps during the day (which didn’t really happen).

Week 2: Not much better.  We experienced more chunks of sleep during the night in the 3+ hours range, but at times with longer “awake” periods in between.  We also still had nights in Week 2 where the little bugger was up every 2 hours or so.

Week 3: We started to see a 4-hour and a 3-hour “sleep block” occur, almost each night, but not necessarily in that order.  Then, on the 20th day of our little devil’s life, we were blessed with a sleep block that lasted a whopping 5 hours and 45 minutes.  Though still not the “magical” 8 hours that adults supposedly need, my wife and I were ecstatic.  How we hoped this would continue…. Well, it did!  On Day 21, our little angel blessed us with 7 hours and 40 minutes.

Week 4: As Week 4 began, we were wondering if our little jokester was playing a cruel trick by teasing us with relatively long blocks of sleep or if he was actually starting to get into a rhythm.  Well, it looks as if he was not playing any tricks…for now.  Day 22 he gave us 6 hours and 50 minutes; Day 23 – 5 hours and 50 minutes; Day 24 – 6 hours 25 minutes; you get the point…. Ever since day 21, he’s been sleeping each night in the 6-8 hour range, which has made for some very happy parents.

We’re not sure why or how he decided to play nice, though we are extremely grateful that he did.  We did pull out some of our own tricks (actually common suggestions from books, our pediatrician, etc.) like making him get up each day by approximately 7 am, ensuring that he was feeding every 2-3 hours, and trying to keep him active/awake more during the day (yes, we actually woke up a sleeping baby, numerous times).  I’m not suggesting that we can confirm that these techniques were totally responsible, but it seems reasonable to believe that they contributed (at least we like to think so because it makes us feel like we accomplished something).  Though this approach was rough on Mommy, Daddy and Baby at times, it appears to be well worth it in the end.

So back to the original question, “How much sleep is enough?”  Well, I’ve provided what the “experts” tell us for children and adults alike.  As for my sleep needs, I’m still totally confused.  During the past 4 weeks, I’ve gone through a range of different sleep patterns and all I can really say is that I feel as if I “got by” with all of them.  Weeks 1 and 2 since D-Day were the most difficult because the change in sleep pattern was so radically different from my “typical” nightly sleep pattern.  I think during Week 3 I started to “get used to” very unpredictable sleep patterns and started to function better on 3-5 hour chunks than I have in the past.  Week four, even though we are getting more sleep each night (between 6-8 hours typically), I still don’t feel like it’s “enough.”  Finally, some days are better than others, but that’s “normal” right?


Even though the “experts” say that on average adults need approximately 8 hours of sleep per night, I don’t know if getting 8 hours per night will make me feel any better.  Since I’ve been an adult, I can’t remember when I’ve ever felt that I was consistently getting “enough” sleep at night.  In a strange way, I think the best I’ve felt during the past 4 weeks was when we were getting 3-4 hour sleep “blocks” during the night and catching a nap during the day (even though I don’t consider myself a “good napper”).  Obviously every individual is different, but maybe that’s the key, it’s not necessarily about when you get your sleep, or getting a continuous 8-hour block of sleep, but how many total hours of sleep you get in a 24-hour period (that’s how the “experts” gauge it for babies).

I guess maybe it’s a good thing that I currently don’t have an 8-5 job because I’m not familiar with any employers that allow nap time…Hmmmmm.  How many hours do you “need”?

Until soon…thanks for listening.




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