Sleep is a universal human need. There is an abundance of scientific research supporting the need for healthy sleep for babies. Alice Callahan, PhD., author of The Science of Mom nicely summarized the importance of sleep for infants in her blog post from February 13, 2012. Specifically, babies need sleep for learning, mood, and growth.
Learning: Studies have shown that sleep is important for the maturation of babies’ brains and for memory consolidation. Optimal sleep has been linked to optimal alertness, which in turn impacts optimal cognitive development. In other words, babies that slept efficiently at night (greater percentage of time asleep at night) showed higher cognitive scores.
This optimal alertness enables children to better interact with their environment as noted by Gary Ezzo, M.A., and Robert Bucknam, M.D. in their book On Becoming Babywise. They state, “They have longer attention spans and, as a result, become fast learners.”
Dr. Weissbluth, in his book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child puts it this way. He warns that sleep problems can disrupt not only a child’s night, but his day as well. Baby may be “…less mentally alert, more inattentive, unable to concentrate, or easily distracted”. Furthermore, he may be “…more physically impulsive, hyperactive, or alternatively lazy”.
Mood: Children that are better rested typically demonstrate “easier” temperaments. Again noted in On Becoming Babywise “These children are self-assured and happy, less demanding, and more sociable,” whereas fatigue in children is “the primary cause of fussiness, daytime irritability, crankiness, discontentment, colic-like symptoms, hypertension, poor focusing skills, and poor eating habits.”
Growth: Sleep directly influences many of the body’s functions that help with healing, growth, and staying on track. As cited by Alice Callahan, several studies have revealed a link between obesity and poor sleep. Notably, babies that sleep less gain more fat as infants. This increases a child’s risk of being overweight by age 3. However, the brain produces the right chemicals to help control hunger and weight when we get enough sleep. (The Parent Line)
Sleep is not only important for children, but for parents as well. When your child is sleeping well, and thus you are too, you will feel better equipped to handle the demands of work and family life. Greater alertness during the day, as a result of better sleep, impacts your:
ability to interpret your child’s needs and respond accordingly,
For mothers, inadequate sleep increases the risk of postpartum depression. This can potentially impact her parenting by being less sensitive, responsive, and emotionally available to her child. In turn, depressed mothers are more likely to report behavioral issues with their children. Studies that specifically tested sleep interventions found symptoms of depression improved for mom when her baby’s sleep improved (Alice Callahan).
Ultimately, healthy sleep habits make for healthy children, and sleeping children make for healthy parents. If you looking to improve sleep in your own household, please contact me for a free 15 minute consultation and we will find a solution that works for you!