All babies need to sleep 12 hours at night. But do they really, though? If you have a baby or toddler who sleeps less but is totally fine, then you might have a child with low sleep needs.

We all know them. You know someone. I know someone. And someone out there knows someone. The parent with the kid that sleeps all the time. They can have an afternoon nap at 5 PM and will still go to bed at 7 PM in the evening, only to sleep until 8 AM in the morning. Just.Like.That.

And there you are, struggling to get your toddler to bed at 9 PM even though they didn't nap for ONE SINGLE MINUTE TODAY. You just gotta love it!

I would lie if I said I didn't envy those parents whose kids can sleep anywhere, anytime. But comparison is not only the thief of joy. It is also the thief of your own reality.

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So many parents are clinging to the belief that their child needs to sleep 12 hours every night. Of course, why wouldn't they? It is advertised on almost every baby sleep site (besides mine) that babies need to sleep from 7 PM - 7 AM. No interruptions, please!

But what if I told you that this is not the case for most babies and toddlers? What if I told you that the majority of children are JUST FINE with 10-11 hours? Well, read on if you want to find out the truth about baby sleep needs.

This article covers:

What Is A Low Sleep Needs Baby?

A low sleep needs baby is simply a child that requires less sleep than the 'average' child. You will find charts about the average sleep needs of children at every age, beginning with newborns. A low sleep needs child may need 1-2 hours less sleep than the average.

They also might go through nap transitions earlier than other children, drop the last nap at an early age, and may live on that beloved short nap.

Related Article: Help! My Baby Is Only Napping for 30 Minutes!

How Common Are Low Sleep Needs Children?

While it can be helpful for parents to put a name on their child's sleeping behavior, we also have to take an honest look at the reality. Sleep experts may tell you that your child needs to sleep 12 hours every night, but the truth is that most babies and toddlers do not sleep 12 hours every night.

Besides the fact that it is completely unrealistic to expect a human, child or not, to sleep the exact same amount of hours every night, we should also consider that babies have different sleep needs.

There is also this dramatic hype about overtired babies and even sleep-deprived children. While overtiredness can be a thing, many parents underestimate the power of undertiredness and instead obsess and fear the oh-my-god overtired baby.

Whenever one of our children became fussy during the day or evening, my husband would always say they either wanted the breast (like da) or were tired. But they often weren't.

Related Article: Baby Sleep - What To REALLY Expect 0-12 Months

Do I Need To Worry About Sleep Deprivation?


Sleep consultants often scare parents that if their baby doesn't have long naps, doesn't sleep through the night early on, or sleeps less than the 'recommended average', their sleep is not as restorative. This, again, is not true. Cat napping and night wakings are a design by nature and serve the important purpose of protection. A baby that is happily cat napping  gets just as sufficient sleep as a baby that is having 2-hour naps. As long as they are happy, of course.

There is no unhealthy and healthy sleep for babies. Sleep is sleep.

So instead of looking at how often your baby wakes at night or how long they nap during the day, the most important thing is the overall sleep they get in 24 hours.

Sleep deprivation is very rare in children. A child that is tired will sleep. Only in very rare cases babies or toddlers are dealing with real sleep deprivation.

With that said, if your child is usually happy and content, then there is no need to change anything or worry if they are getting enough sleep.

If, however, your little one is constantly grumpy after short naps or always crying when waking up, is in an overall bad mood throughout the day, and shows sleepy cues right after waking up, then you might want to try an earlier bedtime or attempt to extend naps.

Related Article: A Toddler Bedtime Routine That Will Make Your Toddler Stop Fighting Sleep

How Can I Tell If My Child Has Low Sleep Needs?

There are some signs that indicate that your child has low sleep needs:

  • They often have cat naps and wake up happy and content.
  • They don't get tired right after waking up and can stay awake for a full wake window.
  • They usually sleep 9-10 hours at night and seem fit throughout the day.
  • They are easy to wake up in the morning and don't get grumpy.
  • Take a long time (>20 minutes) to fall asleep if bedtime is slightly too early.
  • They move around a lot when trying to fall asleep.
  • They experience early morning wakes, more frequent night wakings, or split nights because we try to get them to sleep more than they actually need.
  • It is difficult to resettle them to sleep once they are awake.
  • They don't show many sleep cues.

Related Article: Split Nights: Why Your Baby Is Wide Awake For Hours At Night

How Much Sleep Does My Baby Really Need?

The following chart will give you a realistic idea of how many hours babies sleep throughout the day. The chart shows baby's age, their overall daytime sleep, and overall nighttime sleep in 24 hours. Babies with low sleep needs are at the lower end of the sleep spectrum, while babies with high sleep needs are at the higher end of the sleep spectrum. If your baby falls into the lower range, then you might have a baby with low sleep needs.

*Note: Sleep needs can change during sleep regressions, illness, or developmental leaps.

baby sleep needs table

I realized very early on that both my children have low sleep needs, just like my husband is. They gave up their last nap at 2 years without a problem and could still manage an 8:30 PM bedtime. We could drive in the car for two hours, and they still would not sleep.

Related Article: How To Survive The 4 Month Sleep Regression With An Actual SMILE

Is There Something To Get My Child Sleep More?

I get it. We all want a peacefully sleeping baby, and I really wish it to every parent. And honestly, even we tried on certain occasions to mess with our babies' sleep needs just to be reminded that there is not much to do.

We tried earlier bedtime. We tried to wear themselves out. But in the end, we always came back to the same sleep patterns.

Neither sleep training nor changes in your sleep schedule will get you a child that needs more sleep. They will be the same baby with the same sleep needs. There are some things regarding infant sleep that are just out of our control.

No sleep medicine in this world will get a low sleep needs baby to sleep more.

Remember, you are not dealing with a sleep problem that needs to be fixed here. You are dealing with a human being that simply has other needs than us parents. You cannot force your child to sleep more. It's that simple.

How You Can Cope

The first step towards improvement is acceptance. Accept your child's needs as an individual human being without reflecting on your own needs. Also, remind yourself that nothing you have or haven't done has led to their sleep pattern. They were born with it.

The second step is to go with your child's flow. Yes, setting boundaries around bedtime is important but forcing sleep on a baby that is not tired enough will not only frustrate your baby but you even more.

My boy would sleep almost 2 hours at daycare when he was 2, and I knew there was no chance of getting him to sleep without a fight before 9:30 PM. We often even had a bedtime of 10 PM.  In the middle of the week. With daycare the next day.

We have tried to get him to bed earlier but in the end, just giving in was the best thing I could do for both of our nerves. It was not a fight anymore, and he would finally go to bed peacefully. So don't be afraid to try a longer awake time or a later bedtime.

The last thing you need to do is stop thinking and obsessing about your baby's sleep. Deep down, you know that this is the way your baby sleeps, so googling, researching, and talking about it all the time will not change it. In fact, you might focus on it more and more until it is the only sleep trait you see in your child. With the end of this article, it is time for you to let go and finally find peace.

Related Article: Things To Remind Yourself When Your Baby Is Not Sleeping

Maybe It's Not That Bad After All

On a last note, I wanted to add that having a low sleep need baby is not necessarily something bad. Getting out and about with them can be easier as they don't get tired so fast. They are usually always in a good mood. However, if you have a high sleep need baby, they can get tired quickly, and your only concern is getting them to sleep.

Children with lower sleep needs also have less trouble adjusting to new schedules or sudden changes in their daily routine. They can handle late bedtimes or having to get up early in the morning for certain occasions much better.

Of course, having a low sleep needs baby can be very challenging at other times as well. But in the end, despite all the "your-child-has-to-sleep-at-8-PM" drama, there is nothing to worry about.