Sleep is a fundamental process in the growth and development of your child, especially during infancy and early childhood stages. Sleep experts are encouraging parents not only to focus on the number of sleeping hours, but also to pay attention to quality rest.
Sleep quality it’s becoming a popular topic these days. But still parents are struggling to help their children get good sleep.
It’s not an easy task, for sure. Between busy school routines, work schedules, social commitments, lack of help at home and, many times, no relatives around to support, the organization of family life might play against our sleep needs.
Your Rockin’ Blinks Cheat Sheet:
- Without adequate sleep, children can experience anxiety, moodiness, poor grades and poor health.
- Sleep needs change as your baby grows, while a newborn baby may need 17hs of sleep every day, a school age child will only require 9-12hs.
- Healthy routines, a good schedule and a sleep-inducing environment will all help to help children get better sleep.
- Adequate sleep for children of all ages is essential for their overall health.
We’ve all heard it from doctors and read it in all the parenting books: sleep is essential for babies, toddlers, and growing kids alike. It is a fundamental process in the development of a person (including adults), but it is especially important during the infancy and early childhood stages when there is so much growing to be done. (And, of course, it’s crucial for parents, too! We need our own sleep and some grown-up time, too!).
Ultimately, when it comes to toddler sleep and baby sleep, though, the amount of rest for optimal bodily function differs based on a huge range of things: age, environmental factors, and biological chemistry. Basically, every kid is different. The AAP and the National Sleep Foundation have presented the recommended hours of sleep by aged, based on extensive research. There’s one thing that’s clear: your kid should be sleeping, and there are a lot of reasons why. Here are the most important, including the consequences if your child does not get enough sleep, and the benefits if your kid does sleep enough.
We’ve also included some guidelines for how long your kids should sleep by age since it varies from stage to stage, and some tips for helping them get more shuteye. Ultimately, everyone in the family will benefit if your child ends up getting adequate sleep regularly!
The Importance of Sleep in Children: The Benefits of Good Sleep
Okay, you probably know that one of the benefits of your kid getting enough sleep is that they’re well-rested, and likely you are too! A kid who sleeps through the night has better daytimes and feels better overall. (This can make your life a whole lot easier). But here are some more in-depth benefits that your child will experience if they get enough hours of quality sleep. The benefits affect their bodily health, their emotions, and even their little developing brains. Here’s what you should know:
Sleep Improves Learning and Attention
The brain always recharges its neuronal pathways during sleep. It also flushes out harmful waste proteins that build up during waking hours. So, making sure your child sleeps helps facilitate learning and improves the retention of new information. This means that your kid may have an easier time in school or in new activities they are doing, as they are learning new skills and information. In addition, what happens in the brain during your child’s sleep helps improve their attention span supporting them during the challenging hours at school when they will be required to stay focused.
Sleep Enhances Social Skills and Communication
Quality sleep helps improve neurocognitive function, which makes your lchild less moody overall. (YAY for fewer unexpected tantrums!) Al the same time, sleep will help your child get more excited about communicating and connecting with peers, which will help them develop social skills and make some friends.
Sleep Combats Infection and Speeds up Recovery
Especially in this post-pandemic era, we’re all thinking about health a lot—especially for our littlest ones. The good news? Sleep can help optimize the health of your child. Healthy sleep habits increase your child’s immunity by promoting the production of substances called cytokines, which are proteins that combat germs and infections. Cytokines are important for your child’s early years since kids haven’t developed that robust of an immune system yet (this happens as we get exposed to more and more germs over time). If your child gets enough sleep, they’re likely to stay healthy even when they play on the playground, go to class, swim in the pool, etc.
The Importance of Sleep in Children: The Consequences of Poor Sleep
As you can see from the examples above, sleep is such an important process for your kid’s bodily health. During toddler sleep and baby sleep, your child’s body can repair itself and prepare for the challenges of the next day. If your child doesn’t have great sleeping habits, though, and frequently doesn’t get enough hours of sleep in, they may also suffer from some negative consequences that you’ll want to avoid. Here are some drawbacks of too little sleep-in kids.
Too Little Sleep Can Have Long-term Health Consequences
It’s probably too early to really worry about adult health issues like diabetes, obesity, and other health problems that adult can develop when they don’t sleep enough. However, doctors report that a child who doesn’t get enough sleep can also be at risk of these conditions if they don’t sleep enough when they’re little. Without enough sleep, your kid can experience a rise in cortisol (a stress hormone) and a spike in blood glucose. If this happens a few times, it’s no big deal. But if it happens too frequently, it can hurt your kid’s overall health in the long term.
Not Enough Sleep May Lead to Emotional Struggles
Did you know that your baby or child’s developing mind might also struggle without enough sleep? Research shows that poor sleep quality can result in conditions anxiety or ADHD in children. You know how emotional you feel when you’re exhausted and under slept? That’s how your child will feel, too.
One of the easiest ways to support your child’s sleep, it’s just adjusting their schedule and making sure they have enough hours of sleep before they need to start the day.
Lack of Sleep Can Compromise Growth
One last reason you should focus on making sure your child is sleeping enough is that sleep is essential for growth. When your little one is asleep, their body produces high levels of human growth hormone. So, children who lack proper sleep may experience compromised growth and development. This doesn’t only mean they might be short, but also have brittle bones or generally weak constitution. Have a strong, healthy, thriving little kid (that grows into a big kid!) by making sure they have adequate time in bed each night.
Recommended Hours Sleep by Age
The number of hours of sleep your kid should get differs according to shifting bodily needs. However, getting enough quality sleep ensures that your kid receives the recharging they need for optimal function. However, one thing to note is that the above are recommended broad guidelines, and actual hours of baby sleep or toddler sleep required varies among children based on individual needs.
- Generally, newborns and infants (aged 0-11 months old) sleep about 8-9 hours in the day and a further 8 hours at night. Newborn babies need to feed during the night. Good quality sleep is not contingent of nighttime feedings. A young baby can be well-rested even when waking up to feed during the night. Getting quality naps and controlling the amount of time they are awake during the day is part of keeping them well-rested.
- Toddlers (1-2 years old) require an average of 11-14 hours of sleep per day for optimized function, including naps. Most toddlers transition from two to one nap between 14-18 month of age.
- As children grow, they will need less rest to fulfill daily functions. Preschoolers (3-5 years old) require between 10-13 hours of sleep every day, some children still need a nap at this age. School-going children aged between 7-12 years need an average of 9-12 hours of sleep per day.
Sleep organization looks very different in the early newborn days than what it is in the toddler years and as your children grow. While a newborn might need a lot of sleep, that sleep is usually fragmented, not organized and develops in cycles of 90 minutes. As children grow, nighttime sleep becomes organized and consolidated. In order to help children get all the sleep they need, it is necessary to understand how sleep develops though childhood and offer them the opportunity to sleep at a time of day or night that works best for their age. Visit our Sleep Guide to know what the best schedules for children by age are.
Children are naturally early birds, they release melatonin earlier in the evening compared to adults, and usually benefit from having an early bedtime to get enough and good quality sleep. While putting them to bed later at night might seem like a good strategy to help them sleep later in the morning, actually later bedtimes are associated with less and poor quality sleep in children.
The National Sleep Foundation guidelines recommend:
How to Improve Sleep in Children
Here are some factors to consider in your baby’s and children’s sleep routines to help them get good and enough sleep:
- Sleep researchers have been encouraging people to sleep in a dark, silence and cool environment. Darkness is important to allow the body to release the necessary levels of melatonin and send the signal that it is time to sleep.
- Silence helps us stay asleep and not being woken up by disturbing noises (we all listen even when we are asleep). Incorporating a white noise machine will help block outside noise.
- Temperature also matters, the ideal room temperature is considered between 69-70F / 20-21C.
- Ideally you would like your children to sleep in a tech-free environment. You would want your children to leave phone, tablets, and other devices outside their bedroom.
- We all depend on certain habits to fall asleep. Having a pre-sleep routine is a way of helping the body relax and let the day go.
- Routines include the repetition of certain steps each night. For young children this regularity also creates security and comfort as they understand what is going to happen next. Having a short, relaxing routine, is a great habit to teach your children.
- A simple 5 or 6 steps plan, including brushing teeth, using the bathroom, getting on pajamas, and reading a story may be enough for your child. Being present and calm during those final moments of the day, it is also necessary to support your children at bedtime.
- Avoiding screens one hour before bed is another great way of supporting healthy sleep.
- Children’s daily schedule should allow them to get the necessary amount of sleep and rest, respecting the circadian rhythm when sleep is most restorative.
- For example, if your 7 year old needs to be up every day at 6:30-7am to go to school, and they need 10.5hs of sleep each night, they should be asleep by 8:30pm. This means that homework, dinner, and sleep routine should all happen a lot earlier. Challenging, right? We hear you! It’s still worth trying and seeing if tweaking your family’s activities in the evening can help you make small adjustments to achieve a better sleep.
- The same happens for toddlers who still need to nap during the day. Usually there is a natural moment of the day between 12-2pm when they will feel tired and need to rest. On the other hand, you want to avoid late naps that will affect the time your child will go to sleep at night.
 UHBlog. (2018, May 11). How lack of sleep can increase diabetes risks for children. “[email protected]” Health Articles| University Hospitals | Cleveland, OH | University Hospitals. Retrieved from https://www.uhhospitals.org/Healthy-at-UH/articles/2018/05/diabetes-risks-for-children.
 For children, poor sleep can lead to emotional and behavioral problems. Sleep Education. (2021, April 29). Retrieved from https://sleepeducation.org/poor-sleep-children-emotional-behavioral-problems/.
 University of Houston. (2020, July 7). Poor sleep at night ‘spills over’ into children’s emotional lives. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200707113243.htm
NIH 2017 Feb; 47(2):29-42. Sleep Regulation, Physiology and Development, Sleep Duration and Patterns, and Sleep Hygiene in Infants, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children – PubMed (nih.gov)
Good sleep is essential for a happy healthy childhood and life. Book a consultation with us now!
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