Sleep can be described as the time when your body and brain are resting and re-energising. Children need lots of sleep because at each stage of their development their bodies and their brain are very active, learning and absorbing everything they can. As parents, we are usually grateful they have fallen asleep. However, there are a few important things we should try to remember about young children and sleep.
What happens during sleep?
Simply put, sleep helps children grow. During sleep, your child’s brain is actively restoring information, creating new connections and pathways, and flushing out toxins. You may even think, “Wow my child has grown so much overnight.” This is because one of the most important things that happens during sleep is the secretion of the growth hormone and as it suggests it helps your child grow by making strong bones and muscles.
During sleep, your child will make neural connections in their brain that improve their memory and help them concentrate. These connections not only help them with their thoughts, but with their motor skills and emotions too.
How much sleep does your child need?
As you grow older you, need less sleep because your body is able to go through the same restful processes at a faster rate. So babies and toddlers will need more sleep, but how much more? These are recommendations given by the Australian Health Department:
- Babies need between 14 and 18 hours of sleep but their sleep will usually be incremental in 30 minutes to hour-long periods during the day and at night it can last up to four hours.
- Toddlers (aged 2-3) need 12-13 hours of sleep and at least one hour of sleep will be a daytime nap.
- Kindergarteners (aged 4-5) need about 11-13 hours of sleep, generally at night time.
Benefits of Sleep
There are many benefits to having a good night sleep, including feeling rested, growing and having stronger bones. We should prioritise sleep from a young age because sleep and lack of sleep have long term effects on children’s health and development. So make a habit to get good sleep and rest.
Some of the benefits of a sleep that you might not be aware of include:
- Better Concentration and Long Term Memory: during sleep information your child has attained travels to the centre of the brain where memories are stored. The collection of this information allows for children to retain key information and be less stressed or distracted when learning something new.
- Better Mood Management: as your child sleeps they develop more neural pathways where they can redirect emotions and contain outbursts themselves.
- Ability to Problem Solve: with a better memory and ability to concentrate children are willing to take more risks and problem solve challenges they face every day like walking.
- Stronger Immunity: Rest helps build your child’s immune system because during sleep they will rapidly produce proteins that assist in identifying and fighting off illnesses. These proteins are usually the first line of defence until your child begins to develop immunity.
- Better Heart Health: during sleep, your child’s body will rest and lower glucose and cholesterol levels. This will prevent impulsive fight or flight responses and the premature deterioration of artery walls.
To make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep, at Child’s Play ELC we recommend having a sleep schedule. A sleep schedule is a wind-down routine that you and your child can participate in every night. There are a few ways you can conduct your wind-down routine but it’s important that you make sure it is right for you and your child.
Here are a few tips for a good sleep schedule:
Turning off screens an hour before bed: the blue light emitted from screens (including phones, tablets,TVs, laptops and LeapFrog tablets) keeps the brain active and awake, so turning off these devices allows your child to begin the sleep cycle naturally.
Having a warm bath and getting into pyjamas: getting clean and changing into comfy clothes can help a child feel secure and increase their body temperature which helps children fall asleep.
Reading a story: can help children feel relaxed and is a great non-screen activity if your child is still wide awake.
Dimming the lights and staying nearby: children like to feel comforted that their protectors (their parents) will save them if something were to happen in their sleep and dimming the lights will encourage the release of the sleep hormone as the brain starts to relax.
Making sure bedtime is at the same time every night: A sleep schedule should become a routine if you make a habit of it and your child is likely to carry this habit with them for the rest of their lives.
Having a comforter, such as a toy or blanket: a special toy or blanket that is solely for the purpose of sleep can help a child relax and ease into the sleep cycle. As a comforter, your child should latch onto it as well during sleep and will be less likely to wake-up stressed or anxious.
While night waking is normal for children, having a good sleep schedule can make sleep habitual and increase the chances of your child being well-rested.
Childs Play ELC
Child’s Play ELC are based in Torquay and Tarneit. Our philosophy is that every child matters, so if you have a question about your child and their sleeping behaviours please do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our educators.