Sleep. It’s something every living thing needs to do. It’s a basic, biological function that we need to survive. It’s so ingrained in our being that we’ve dedicated whole rooms in our homes to it and whole industries have grown up around the need.
Yet, as busy adults, we sometimes take sleep for granted and don’t always get the amount we need. As parents, though, we must ensure that our children get their adequate sleep hours each day.
Sleep is an important part of a child’s physical health and cognitive development. A well-rested child is more alert and ready to learn. Sleep promotes memory and performance, as well.
When children don’t get enough sleep, they become hyperactive, disagreeable and have extremes in behavior. All of this leads to a state of mind that is not open to learning.
While it might be unseen, important developments happen while children are sleeping.
During quiet sleep, also known as Non-Rapid Eye Movement Sleep, energy is restored throughout the body as blood flow to the muscles is increased. Hormones are released for growth and development. Tissues are also repaired.
During active sleep, or Rapid Eye Movement Sleep, dreaming occurs. Some believe this is the brain’s way of relieving stress or working out problems. Others have compared it to dumping data from a computer’s memory. Whatever the correct analogy might be, most agree that dreaming is necessary for cognitive development.
As a child ages from birth to a teenager, the amount of sleep needed changes. SleepforKids.org suggests the following amounts of sleep children should have at different ages. It should be noted that these amounts are guidelines and parents should recognize that each child may require more or less depending on their individual needs.
Age Hours of Sleep
0-2 mos. 10.5-18
2-12 mos. 14-15
1-3 yrs. 12-14
3-5 yrs. 11-13
5-12 yrs. 10-11
Clearly, babies and toddlers require more sleep than preschool and school age children. As less sleep is needed, preschoolers transition out of naps. However, it might be necessary for an earlier bedtime during this time.
To ensure quality sleep, a bedtime routine is suggested so children can transition from active time to rest. This might include the following:
– Have a winding-down period;
– Include a bath to relax your child;
– Read to your child before bedtime;
– Stick to a time for bed and alert your child 30 and 10 minutes beforehand.
Good, restful sleep comes when a routine is followed. In the end, that’s what your child needs. Good sleep ensures both physical and cognitive growth as well as aids your child with being alert and ready to learn during the day. In the early years of a child’s life, along with nutrition and love, sleep is one of the most important things you can help your child do to aid development.