Humans spend about 1/3 of their life sleeping. In an ideal world, everyone would get 8 hours of sleep a night. While science hasn’t discovered exactly why our bodies need consistent, quality rest to function well, it is undoubtedly known, that sleep is important. Just ask a new mom with a newborn at home; she’ll gladly tell you how much she misses sleep and how she needs it to do all the things moms do. And without it? Well, life’s just a mess. Sleep deprived brains can’t make quick or wise choices, sleep deprived bodies don’t have good reflexes or strong immune systems, and sleep deprived minds don’t have good attitudes or the ability to handle stressors. And that’s why, being the loving and awesome mom that you are, you want your child to get enough sleep (and you’re ready to start getting it yourself, if we’re being honest together!).
Why Is Sleep So Important?
Just because science can’t tell us why our bodies need sleep, it can tell us why sleep is so important to the human body. In fact, sleep is arguably one of the most beneficial things you can give yourself. After all, your body needs the rest it gets during your hours of slumber to do all the things it does that you don’t even think about, like make new cells and heal from the inside out. There are several noticeable benefits of sleep for your child on the outside, too, and it’s important to understand them so you can help make the best choices for your little one. In fact, knowing these benefits will help you realize that more sleep would typically fix a lot of the issues you’ve been worrying about.
Sleep Helps Children Learn
Like we talked about in “Why We Sleep Train” post, children need sleep to learn well. It’s impossible to focus well and take in information when you’re exhausted, just like it’s impossible to remember what you’ve learned when you’re trying to stay awake. Sleep is critical to the learning process. Learning happens in three phases:
- Knowledge acquisition
- Knowledge consolidation
- Knowledge recall
Acquisition is the process of taking in new facts through observation, experience, or more formal learning like attending school. You do this while you are awake, and you do it better when you’re well rested. So do your child. That knowledge is then consolidated in your brain, like a file being placed in the proper spot to be found at a future date. Did you know that this happens when you’re asleep? That means if you don’t get enough rest, your brain isn’t remembering things clearly. Sleep is foundational for your child’s development because otherwise he won’t file away all the things his busy little brain is trying to take in. And lastly, the recall step is when you can remember something you’ve already learned. If you didn’t sleep well after learning it, or you’re really tired, it’s hard to recall things.
Sleep Makes Children Happy
It makes adults happy, too. How may times do you think, “If only I could get more sleep…”? Well, as parents, it’s your job to help your child do that. Sleep deprivation is known to increase feelings of stress, anger, and sadness, as well as enhance mental exhaustion. Who on earth can be happy when all that stuff seems larger than life? Your poor, overtired child will become overwhelmed, unhappy, and likely end up in a very bad mood from lack of sleep.
Sleep Helps Children Behave Better
Many times a child’s tantrum can be linked to a missed nap or a poor night’s rest. If we’re being honest, many times an adult’s more socially appropriate tantrums are a result of that same lack of sleep. But kids don’t have the same kind of social restraint and awareness that adults do, which is why they need their loving parents to help them get enough sleep so they have a better chance of being able to self regulate. The human body and mind need enough rest to exercise self restraint and to make wise choices.
Healthy Kids Get More Sleep
Sleep isn’t just essential for mental and emotional health; their bodies need sleep to be healthy, too. According to Dr. Mitler of the National Institute of Health:
People who regularly get between 7-9 hours of sleep significantly lower rates of obesity, high blood pressure, stroke, infections, depression, diabetes, inflammation, hypertension, heart disease, heart attacks, and heart failure.
Wow! That right there shows you just how essential it not only to make sure your child sleeps enough now, but that they learn to develop healthy sleep habits that will help the for the rest of their lives. Even growth hormones work when baby is asleep, so without enough rest your child can’t grow and develop well.
The Myths About Sleep
Understanding the importance of sleep should help you recognize all those sleep myths you’ve probably heard. “It’s okay, they’ll sleep well eventually. Just embrace this season.” “Stop worrying about it; lack of sleep at this age is normal.” “Your body will adjust to less sleep, no worries.” It’s time to stop the madness. Yes, you’ll get used to living with less sleep…but at what cost? Your baby will adapt to waking up every few hours and not falling back to sleep…but with what effects?
The problem isn’t that babies and children don’t sleep well, it’s that parents don’t know how to help them sleep better. Babies who wake up half a dozen times all night long and need to be soothed back to sleep have sleep troubles and it will impact their development. But only if you let it. They can be taught to sleep well and to go back to sleep when they do wake up. You just need to realize how important it is for both your baby and you to get the rest you both need. Sleep isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. And the time to start prioritizing it is today.
You’ll be a healthier, happier parent and your baby will be a healthier, smarter, more well adjusted child. And the habits you are teaching them today will help them for the rest of their life. That’s not being a selfish mom who wants the luxury of sleep. No, not at all. That’s being a good, loving mom who wants to be her best for her child and to give her child the best start in life. And you don’t have to have all the answers, either. We’re here to help you figure it out and start sleeping better soon.