The following is a guest post from Ellie Porter, the Manager Editor at The Sleep Help Institute.
Sleep is critical to your child’s development at every stage of development. Recent scientific studies show that sleep habits, duration, and quality of sleep influence physical growth, brain development, and behavior.
Why Sleep is Essential
1 – Sleep transforms information into knowledge
Every day, your child learns so much, but it won’t translate to information they retain without proper sleep. A study presented in Nature Neuroscience showed that without good sleep, it’s possible that children could lose what was learned during the day.
2 – Sleep helps kids grow bigger and stronger
A study in the Neuroendocrinology Journal revealed that growth hormone (GH) secretes during key sleep functions (slow wave sleep). Encouraging sleep and creating a healthy sleep space can help keep your child on track for proper physical growth and development.
3 – Sleep determines daytime behavior and performance
Research indicates many behavioral issues and school attentiveness are tied to sleep loss and disruption. The Adler Center for Child Development presented findings that inadequate sleep causes kids to struggle to stay awake in class, makes processing information difficult, and causes issues with behavioral control.
4 – Sleep helps test performance in sleep-deprived kids
Benchmarking children’s learning is usually done with test scores, and an NIH study presented in Sleep Med found that IQ, perceptual reasoning and test performance depend on sleep duration. Sleep deprivation, they wrote, is tied to attention and performance deficits in children of all ages.
5 – Sleep helps grow kids’ bodies and brains
Children’s external growth is easier to observe than cognitive development, and good sleep is critical to both. The Sleep Research Society noted that three things contribute to healthy growth and development — a loving home, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep.
What you can do to help your little ones get good rest
Better sleep from the start helps ensure future success
Sleep is important at every stage of your child’s development but vital in the first three years of life. These early years set the stage for lifelong neurodevelopment, cognition, attention span, and behavior.
Set the stage for sound sleep
Humans of all ages sleep best in the cool, dark, and quiet. That means bright night light, digital devices, and distractions are a no-no in the bedroom. Training your child to sleep in the dark is best.
Curate a comfortable sleep space
Once your child migrates to a big kids’ bed, mattress choice is important. Children usually do better on a medium firm mattress. Invest in a good quality mattress, comfortable sheets, and a seasonally appropriate blanket so they don’t overheat.
Establish a routine
Good sleep habits begin with a bedtime routine that’s consistent. Studies show children with established routines fall to sleep faster, stay asleep longer, and sleep better than those whose pre-bedtime habits are erratic.
Lastly, don’t over-schedule your children so that sleep takes a back seat to enrichment activities. Set a good example by keeping good sleep habits of your own that your child can observe and model.
Having trouble getting your little one on a sleeping schedule? Our expert sleep coach is available to help!