Sleep is critical for children and needs to be a priority for parents. Each baby needs to establish a sleep-wake cycle. This cycle gets regulated by light and dark but the rhythm takes time to develop. When the schedule is still developing, or is not regulated, it creates irregular sleep schedules for newborns. It is beneficial for parents to understand that sleep has two alternating states – non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM). NREM is a still or quiet state when muscles’ blood supply increases, energy is restored, tissue growth and repair occur, and hormones are released for growth and development. REM is when the brain is active and dreams occur.
Parents are all too familiar with the effects of a missed nap or a baby that did not sleep well through the night. A lack of sleep comes with many consequences for both the parent and the child. When a baby is tired he will have a shorter attention and will be less able to engage with the world in a positive way. Sleep directly effects learning, mood, and growth. Sleep stimulates brain growth and development and aids in creating memories because when a child is learning new things, sleep lets the brain rest and process the new information. The mood of the baby is effected by sleep because if a child is not well rested he will fatigue quicker and become distressed easier, while well-rested babies are more approachable, less distracted, and more adaptable. Growth has been linked to sleep by connecting a lack of sleep with an increase in fat for infants which could lead to a higher risk of a child being overweight as they become a toddler. The goal is to have the baby fall asleep easily and wake up happy.
Trips for improving sleep habits:
- Observe baby’s sleep patterns and identify signs of sleepiness
- Put baby in the crib when drowsy, not asleep
- Place baby to sleep on his or her back with face and head clear of blankets and other soft items
- Encourage nighttime sleep