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Are New Zealand children meeting the Ministry of Health guidelines for sleep?

The Ministry of Health recommends toddlers (1 – 2 year olds) sleep 11 to 14 hours per day and pre-schoolers (3 – 4 year olds) sleep 10 to 13 hours per day, which may include naps. National Sleep Foundation sleep quality guidelines indicate that waking once or less at night is ‘appropriate’, waking twice is ‘uncertain’, and waking three or more times is ‘not appropriate’ for good quality sleep of toddlers or pre-schoolers.

There has been limited data on how many children under five in Aotearoa New Zealand are meeting current sleep duration and sleep quality guidelines. To address this, researchers from Massey University, Queensland University of Technology and the Ministry of Health analysed sleep and sociodemographic data from the Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study.


  • A substantial proportion of young children in New Zealand are not meeting sleep duration and/or sleep quality guidelines, and some groups of children are at more risk of sub-optimal sleep than others.
  • The estimated prevalence of children in New Zealand meeting sleep duration guidelines was 70% at 24 months of age and 81% at 45 months of age; having an appropriate number of night wakings was 85% at 24 months and 92% at 45 months, after adjusting for a host of sociodemographic factors.
  • Girls had a high probability of shorter or more disturbed sleep compared to boys; Māori, Pacific and Asian children had a high probability of shorter or more disturbed sleep compared to European/Other children;and children living in more socioeconomically deprived areas had a high probability of shorter or more disturbed sleep compared children living in areas with the least deprivation.
  • Changes in sleep over time also differed by these key sociodemographic factors, but as data were only available at two time points, it is not yet known how sleep differs between groups as children grow older.
  • Sociodemographic factors at the neighbourhood, household and child-levels were independently associated with sub-optimal sleep at 24 or 45 months of age, including living in an urban area, living in an area with heavy traffic, living in a household with low material standard of living, being overweight, having poor health, and using visual media for two or more hours a day.

For enquiries about this research please email

The views and interpretations in this report are those of the researchers and are not the official position of the Ministry of Social Development.

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