Sleep and children

Children's Sleep

Just like eating well and staying active, getting enough sleep is super important for your child’s health. 

Getting the right amount of sleep will;

  • Improve concentration and attention span.
  • Give the brain time to ‘file’ in your memory what it has learnt in the day.
  • Let the body rest and repair - this helps to keep the immune system ready to protect from illnesses.
  • Reduce stress hormones and is good for emotional and mental health.

Making sure children and young people get enough sleep helps them keep well, thrive and reach their potential.

Sleep Difficulties

Sometimes sleep is more difficult. There are so many different factors which can affect children’s sleep such as:

  • diet 
  • life changes and/or worries about things happening in their lives
  • anxiety, bad dreams or night time fears
  • not having a regular bedtime and getting up time
  • the room being too hot, too cold, too light / too dark.
  • sensory issues or being ‘over-stimulated’ before bedtime by some foods or drinks, screen time or social media
  • children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)

There are things you can do to help your child get enough rest, this is called sleep hygiene

“Research shows that if children are sleep deprived by just an hour a night, it could reduce their cognitive academic performance by up to 2 whole years. We need to recognise that sleep is one of the most powerful performance-enhancers known to human kind.”

Dr Guy Meadows, Sleep Physiologist

Steps to success

It is important to understand that at first your child’s sleep patterns may appear to become worse before they get better as they may try to resist new changes that you make. Parents often give up when implementing a routine as they feel that it isn’t working, you need to give any changes at least 2 weeks in order to see results.

6 Sleep Steps for a Better Night's Sleep

Check out this video where Jacqs from the Sheffield Parent Hub shares 6 steps to help your child sleep better at night.


The 6 steps 

  • Step 1 - Set a time for your bedtime routine
  • Step 2- Switch Screens off, calm play time
  • Step 3 - Have a Sleepy Supper
  • Step 4 - Bath, Pyjamas, Teeth and Toilet
  • Step 5 - Settling in bed
  • Step 6 - Lights out, Sleep time

Points to remember

  • Consistency throughout the week including weekends.
  • It can take several weeks for a child to learn a new behaviour.
  • Behaviour may become more difficult at first.
  • You are putting this new routine in place to help your child and the family.
  • Keep positive and use lots of praise and encouragement.

Remember every child is different. This is an average and the amount of sleep children need will vary, particularly for those with special needs. 


Average number of hours needed at night

Average number of hours needed during day

12 months

11 ½

2 ½

2 Years

11 ¾

1 ¼

3 Years



4 Years

11 ½


5 Years



6 Years

10 ¾


7 Years

10 ½


8 Years

10 ¼


9 Years



10 Years

9 ¾


11 Years

9 ½


12 Years

9 ½


13 Years

9 ¼


14 Years



15 Years

8 ¾


16 Years

8 ½


Taken from Lyn Quine - “Solving Children’s Sleep Problems”.  

This information is shared as part of our Sheffield Children and Young People Sleeping Well handout pack and is discussed in further detail in our Sleep Sessions. Sessions supported by Sheffield Children's NHS Foundation Trust and The Sleep charity.

Sleepy foods contain an essential amino acid called tryptophan, this converts into serotonin, which is then converted into melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone produced to help us go to sleep. 

There are a variety of food groups which can help with improving sleep

Milk & Dairy

Warm milk, yogurt, soya milk, cheddar processed cheese, cottage cheese & tofu

Meat & Fish

Chicken, turkey, cod, tuna, mackerel & salmon


Apples, bananas, blueberries, strawberries, avocado, pineapple, peaches & cherries


Spinach, asparagus, green peas, broccoli, tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms, cucumbers & potatoes

Nuts & Seeds

Walnuts, peanuts, cashews, pistachios, chestnuts, almonds, ground flax, sesame, pumpkin & sunflower seeds.

Legumes & Grains

Mung bean, soybeans, kidney beans, lima beans (butter beans), chickpeas, wheat, brown rice, red rice, barley, corn & oats.


Whole wheat bread.

What your child eats during the day impacts on their sleep at night. Avoid them having sugary snacks and anything with caffeine, particularly before bedtime.

Statement on On-Line Melatonin Preparations

  • Research evidence has shown that there is variability in the content of melatonin “gummies” manufactured in the US and available on-line
  • A study measuring the content of 25 brands of “gummy” found that some products contained up to 4 x the dose stated on the label
  • Melatonin gummies can contain high levels of serotonin or CBD and deaths in children taking melatonin gummies have been reported in the US as a result of serotonin overdose.
  • Melatonin should only be taken under medical supervision and only if behavioural intervention has been offered
  • If your child is having sleep problems, please read the information on The Sleep Charity/Sheffield Children’s Hospital/FIS/Kids website.
  • The Sleep Charity/Sheffield Children’s Hospital/FIS/Kids and other experts are actively campaigning to advise the UK government to restrict the availability of on-line melatonin products.

Sleep Seminars

Free regular online sessions delivered by Sheffield Parent Hub, Sheffield Children's Hospital 0-19 service and Sheffield Sleep Clinic. 

Time to Sleep

This is an information session for all parents/carers of children 12 months and over.

The session will cover:

  • the importance of sleep
  • how much sleep do children need
  • possible effects of poor sleep
  • introduction to the sleep cycle
  • how to promote good sleep
  • what makes a good routine

To view dates and book a place on a seminar visit the Sheffield Parent Hub Eventbrite page

Time to Sleep for under fives

The under-fives sleep hygiene session is for parents and carers of children with sleep difficulties aged 1 to 5 years of age.

The session will be ‘live’ and delivered by the Sheffield Children’s Hospital 0 – 19 Service and Sleep Clinic.

The session will explain the following:

  • children’s sleep needs
  • stages of sleep and the child’s sleep cycle
  • sleep associations, difficulties and opportunities
  • healthy diet and sleepy foods
  • making changes to the sleeping environment
  • two sleep strategies to encourage self-settling
  • how to develop your child’s sleep plan

The session will be approximately an hour with half an hour for questions at the end as time allows.

To view dates and book a place on a seminar visit the Sheffield Parent Hub Eventbrite page

Time to Sleep Neurodiverse

This information session has a neurodiverse focus, it is for parents/carers of children who have a diagnosis of or are on the waiting list for assessment for a condition such as Autism, ADHD and other neurodiversity’s

The session will cover

  • the importance of sleep
  • how much sleep do children need
  • possible effects of poor sleep
  • introduction to the sleep cycle
  • how to promote good sleep
  • sensory processing and how this impacts sleep
  • what makes a good routine including visual aids.

To view dates and book a place on a seminar visit the Sheffield Parent Hub Eventbrite page

Need more support?

Contact your Health Visitor, Family Hub, Nursery/School or

For children under 5 Years

Self-refer by contacting the Health Central team on 0114 3053224

For children over 5 Years

Self-refer by contacting Sheffield Parent Hub on 0114 2057243 or

Other useful resources

    • The Sleep Charity has more on supporting your child to have quality sleep.
    • has some simple techniques you can try to help your child settle and stay asleep at night.
    • Young Minds and have information on anxiety and worries, nightmares, night terrors and altered sleep problems.
    • The Sheffield Children’s Hospital have sleep resources for parents of children with autism and related conditions on their website.
    • Cerebra Sleep advice service offering information and telephone support.
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