Getting enough sleep is important for preschoolers. Sleep supports the brain development and learning that is happening during this stage of growth.  

Sleep and learning

Most children are now in an early learning or kindy environment. This may mean they are: 

  • learning how to be apart from their parents  
  • learning to socialise with other children  
  • learning new rules 
  • taking direction from adults that are not known to them.  

A well-rested preschooler will be more likely to manage a new environment with enough energy and concentration to learn and to enjoy these new experiences.  

Supporting your child’s transition to sleep

Preschoolers will need support from their parents at the end of the day, to unwind from their busy day, to talk about and process what they have been doing, to refuel with a healthy snack, and to reconnect with their parents through cuddles and attention.  

This can be tricky in many families where there are meals to be cooked, chores, homework and bathing to be done, where all in the household are tired and needing to de-stress from the day.  

Consistent bed and wake times and calming bedtime routines are key. Limit or avoid screen time and encourage less stimulating play as bed time draws near. Just as with toddlers, this is part of assisting your preschooler to ‘transition’ to bedtime.  

Some ideas that can help:   

  • Give warnings when bedtime is near  
  • Practise a bedtime ritual that follows a set sequence such as having a bath, putting on pyjamas, brushing teeth and reading a book.  

When sleep is difficult

Due to higher levels of stimulation and separation from parents in the day, some preschoolers will experience periods of sleep difficulty. This may be either finding it hard to get to sleep or waking during the night.  

‘Switching off’ from their day may prove difficult for some children. They may require some additional support to learn to still their mind and to relax.

If your child is getting out of bed during the night, be calm and consistent with how you support your child to resettle.  

Some children will experience nightmares and night terrors at this development stage as their imaginations are further developed and stimulated throughout the day. Reassure and support them. This stage will pass as they grow.  

How much sleep does my preschooler need?  

Every child is different and there is a big range of what is considered adequate sleep.  

On average, most preschoolers need an average of 11 to 14 hours of good quality sleep a day. They will usually be ready for bed between 6.30pm and 7.30pm, depending on your individual household. Some preschoolers may still need an afternoon nap.

Their behaviour will be a safe guide for you. A preschooler with adequate sleep will be happy, active and playful at home and at kindy.  

Watch for tired signs, like rubbing eyes or being irritable and emotional.  

Remember your child is still learning and growing. They need routine and for you to be reassuring and warm while, at the same time, consistent and firm. 

Want to know more?

Raising Children Network Preschoolers and sleep

Pregnancy, birth and baby – Sleep and your child