Some facts about sleep…
Physiology and the importance of sleep.
Surprisingly, we know very little about why humans need to sleep. Infants and young children spend a majority of their time asleep, suggesting that sleep is essential for the developing brain and body.
During the first years of life, the brain grows fastest and is most responsive to the outside world. Most of the brain’s neural pathways that support communication, understanding, social and emotional development grow rapidly in the first three years.
During Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, also known as “active sleep” in infants, the brain is active and dreaming occurs. The body experiences low muscle tone and breathing and heart rate are irregular. The proportion of REM sleep is highest in infancy (55%) and declines to 20-25% by the age of 5. During non-REM sleep blood supply to muscles is increased, energy is restored, tissue growth and repair occur, and important hormones are released for growth and development.
Sleep has important cognitive, social, behavioural and emotional benefits.
Early childhood is a critical time for children to develop neurocognitive and intellectual abilities. Sleep plays an important role in babies’ brain maturation, learning and memory, and improving language learning. Sleep also helps improve babies’ social skills, including the ability to form relationships. To maximise a child’s potential, sleep is a key component to the mix that shapes their biological and environmental development. Potential consequences of sleep problems can therefore be significant.
Consequences of sleep problems.
Not only do sleep problems tend to persist, but there is increasing evidence that inadequate sleep quality in infants and young children can have negative impacts on daytime functioning. Cognitive and behavioural development is affected, as well as psychiatric and health outcomes such as obesity and metabolic consequences. Sleep problems early in life have been linked to behavioural and emotional problems later in life. Sleep problems in infants and toddlers lead to a negative impact on maternal wellbeing and family functioning. Maternal depression and marital issues are common in a family with a child who does not sleep well.
Sleep behaviour management.
Sleep management primarily begins with parental education about good sleep habits. ‘Sleep habits’ include having an appropriate sleep environment, as well as the child and the parents engaging in routines and practices that encourage good quality sleep of sufficient duration. In order to ensure good sleep habits, it is important to introduce a consistent bedtime routine, an appropriate quiet place for sleep to occur and soothing/relaxing activities preceding bedtime. Most importantly, it is crucial to have an avoidance of environmental and behavioural associations with falling asleep – i.e. being rocked to sleep, feeding to sleep, parents laying in the bed. Children who rely on such ‘props’ or environmental factors to fall asleep will need these resources again to fall asleep again for any subsequent night wakings.
Positive bedtime routines.
There is considerable evidence to suggest that a regular and consistent bedtime routine are crucial in assisting a child to learn healthy sleep habits. Routines help babies learn, by providing two key ingredients; relationships and repetition. When a baby/toddler experiences the same thing over and over, the pathways of connections in the brain become stronger and more complex. Such a routine provides multisensory stimulation through direct skin to skin contact, direct eye contact, and hearing the sound of a parent’s voice. In general, daily routines lead to predictable and less stressful environments for young children and are related to improved behaviour, and greater sense of parental competence.
Sleep Right Tonight’s methods.
At Sleep Right Tonight, I use gentle but proven methods that have a very positive impact on the sleep habits of babies and children. My techniques promote the child’s ability to be able to self-settle and therefore return to sleep without any external associations or parental influence. It is important to mention that I do not condone, nor would I ever suggest parent's use a "cry it out" method.
If you’d like to learn more about my techniques, or you would like to book a consultation, please contact me today for a FREE phone consult.