We constantly hear how important sleep is, but do we really understand just how important it is, especially to the development of young children? Sleep is just as significant to a child as eating healthy and exercising because sleep helps support their mental and physical development.
Getting enough sleep is very important to a child’s mental development. Even in infancy, while children are sleeping, their brains are busy working while they rest. Research shows that when your baby is sleeping and starts to twitch, that is their bodies learning the connection between their brain and their muscles. Throughout the day some children may have a harder time than others concentrating. Children who do not get enough sleep may have a more difficult time focusing or managing their moods. Making sure your child is well rested not only helps them concentrate and learn new things, but it also supports the brain to take in information and actually retain it.
Children who do not sleep as much as they should may see a negative effect on their growth hormones. Because this hormone is primarily produced during sleep, a child that is lacking rest may develop a growth hormone deficiency. Lack of sleep can also effect a child’s weight. Children who suffer from sleep deprivation may be effecting their leptin hormone which is the hormone that tells a child they have eaten enough. If this hormone has been impacted, a child will continue eating even though they’ve had enough which can lead to obesity.
Getting the right amount of sleep during the night is essential, but that doesn’t mean that naps aren’t important as well. Naps not only give families some time throughout the day to get a few things done around the house or simply just relax, but they also benefit children by not allowing them to become overtired. Once a child becomes overtired, their moods can be effected and they may have a harder time trying to fall asleep at night.
So how much sleep should a child get? Some children will need more sleep at night and take short naps throughout the day while others may sleep a bit less throughout the night and also take substantial naps throughout the day. Though there is no specific time frame that will fit the needs of each child, experts suggest the following:
- 0-3 months old:5 to 18 hours of sleep per day
- 3-12 months old: 9 to 14 hours of sleep per day
- 1-3 years old: 12 to 14 hours of sleep per day
- 3-5 years old: 11 to 13 hours of sleep per day
- 5-12 years old: 10 to 11 hours of sleep per day
To ensure that your child gets the amount of sleep needed, it’s important to start a sleep schedule at a young age and be consistent as possible with it. A bedtime routine will not only keep your child on a consistent schedule, but it will also help to calm your child down from the day and help them with falling asleep faster. A great way to do this would be to include a bedtime story and bath in their routine.
Still having difficulties getting your little one to go to sleep? Research suggests limiting snacks and drinks such as desserts or juices that may have a lot of sugar or caffeine in them. Not only can these treats effect their dental health, it also will keep your child from falling asleep and getting the appropriate amount of rest they need.