5 Reasons Your Kids Need More Sleep

Did you know that March is National Sleep Awareness Month? Or is that something that’s only celebrated by sleep nerds like myself?

Either way, the fact remains that this is a great opportunity to encourage you to prioritise your little ones’ sleep and take the steps to improve their sleep habits, and I’m going to tell you, in great detail, why that’s so important that it warrants an entire month dedicated to it!

As parents, we tend to get complacent about sleep, both for our kids and for ourselves. As soon as people announce that they have a baby on the way, we hear all of the, “Hope you’re not a fan of sleeping!” jokes, and we tend to accept those sleepless nights as the price of having kids.

So when baby gets into the habit of waking up five times a night, we just try to shake it off and convince ourselves that it’ll pass eventually, and we’ll get back to sleeping once they’ve grown up. But sleep, as I tell my clients so often, is not a luxury! Babies don’t fight sleep because their systems need less of it than their adult counterparts. On the contrary, they need a whole lot more! And today, I’d like to tell you exactly why.

Brain Development

Sleep is crucial for the development of a baby’s brain. During sleep, the brain processes and consolidates information, helping to create new neural connections and pathways, which leads to better retention of learned skills and abilities.

This doesn’t just apply to nighttime sleep either. Babies who take regular daytime naps show an increased ability to recall language, develop skills, and think creatively over those who don’t. 

Physical Growth

Not surprisingly, sleep is also essential for physical growth. During sleep, the body produces growth hormone, (hGH) which stimulates tissue growth and repair. Even though the body appears relaxed, when baby’s sleeping, there’s a whole lot going on inside!

Cells in the cartilage called chondrocytes and cells in bones called osteoblasts receive signals from hGH to increase replication, which is a fancy way of explaining how bones grow longer, thicker, and stronger.

Emotional Well-being

Sleep is critical for emotional well-being. Babies who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to experience mood swings, irritability, and have difficulty regulating their emotions.

According to Dr. Dean Beebe, director of the neuropsychology program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, “Inadequate sleep causes children to have problems regulating the ups and downs in their moods, leading to wider and more rapid reactions to relatively minor events. Children who don’t get enough sleep also don’t pay attention as well, are less likely to think before they act, and don’t seem able to solve problems as well.”

Immune System Function

Sleep helps to boost the immune system, helping babies (and adults as well) fight off infections and illnesses. How? During sleep, your body produces and releases various types of immune cells such as cytokines, T-cells, and natural killer (NK) cells. These cells are responsible for identifying and targeting pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria, and initiating an immune response to eliminate them.

Adequate sleep ensures that your baby’s system is properly loaded with these essential immune cells to fight off infections.

Better Parent-Child Relationships

Finally, getting enough sleep can improve the quality of your relationship with your child. When your child is regularly getting the sleep they need, they are more likely to be cooperative, cheerful, and responsive. In turn, you’ll experience less conflict and frustration with your little one. I don’t think I’m overstating the case when I say that a happier, more well-behaved child is something we’re all striving towards, am I right?

So, how can you help your child get more sleep? Well, if you read my blog even semi-regularly, these won’t come as a surprise to you, but for the uninitiated among you, here are five of the biggest changes you can make tonight to start helping your little one get the sleep they need. 

● Establish a consistent bedtime routine that includes relaxing activities such as reading or listening to music.

● Set a regular bedtime and wake-up time, even on weekends.

● Create a sleep-friendly environment by ensuring that your baby’s room is cool, dark, and quiet. (White noise machines being a notable exception.)

● Avoid screens (TV, tablets, smartphones) before bedtime, as they can interfere with sleep.

● Encourage your child to engage in physical activity during the day, as this can help them fall asleep more easily at night.

So happy Sleep Awareness Month, everyone! I know that most of you aren’t as obsessed with the subject as I am, but I’m grateful that you’ve taken the time to learn a little more about what makes sleep so important, and how you can help your little one get as much as they need. If I’ve helped you accomplish that, I feel like I’ve done my part to further the cause.

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