Sleep and your child: zero to six years


Managing sleep for babies and children is one of the most common concerns for parents.

There are many different ways parents can help babies and children get to sleep, and patterns vary between cultures and families.

What matters most is that bedtime is relaxed and comfortable and that babies and children are safe and have comfort when they need it.

The length of time that a child will sleep and the number of sleeps they need is very individual and can vary a lot at any age.

If things aren't working well for you, some of the following information might help.

Types of sleep

There are two main kinds of sleep:

  • light sleep
  • or deep sleep.

Light sleep

Light sleep is when you dream and ‘go over’ the day’s events and wake feeling refreshed.

It’s also the kind of sleep where you wake more easily.

Your baby will light sleep about eighty percent of the time.

By the time they become a teenager, they will light sleep only about twenty percent of the time.

Deep sleep

Deep sleep is when growing and healing takes place. It is much harder to wake people from this kind of sleep.

Each night your child goes through sleep cycles from light sleep to deep sleep then light again.

Babies move quickly through these two types of sleep. Toddlers usually take about an hour for each sleep pattern or cycle.

Your baby or toddler might become unsettled as they move between the two stages.

Getting ready for sleep

You can help your baby or child relax and settle into sleep by doing some quiet, relaxing activities for the hour before bedtime. 

Having a routine such as a bath, quiet story, song and a special goodnight kiss can help them feel comfortable and secure.


The information in this section was adapted from the Parent Easy Guide series © Parenting SA, Government of South Australia.

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Last updated: 18 March 2016

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