As a professional child sleep coach, I have seen firsthand the impact that a lack of sleep can have on a child. From crankiness to difficulty concentrating in school, inadequate sleep can have significant consequences on a child’s overall well-being. In this blog post, I will explore five reasons why a child needs adequate sleep and provide three tips for parents to improve their child’s sleep.
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Better Physical Health
Adequate sleep is critical for a child’s physical health. Sleep is essential for the body to repair and recharge, and it helps children maintain a healthy weight, improve their immune system, and reduce their risk of developing chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
I had the pleasure of working with a toddler named Liam who was experiencing a range of health issues related to his sleep patterns. He woke up 2 – 3 times a night and needed his parents to come and lay in bed with him quite some time before he could fall back asleep.
Liam’s parents had reached out to me because they were concerned about his frequent illnesses and lack of physical energy. Liam was having difficulty sleeping through the night and would often wake up crying or calling for his parents. As a result, he was not getting the restful sleep that his body needed to grow and thrive.
After working with Liam and his parents, we determined that his sleep patterns were significantly impacting his physical health. Liam was not getting enough deep, restful sleep, which was compromising his immune system and leading to frequent illnesses. We worked together to establish a consistent sleep routine for Liam and some new boundaries around sleep so that he could learn how to be able to put himself back to sleep during the night.
Within just a few weeks, Liam’s parents reported that he was sleeping through the night and seemed to have more energy during the day. They also noticed a significant improvement in his overall physical health. Liam was getting sick less often and was more active and engaged during the day. He was able to explore his environment and play with his toys for longer periods without tiring.
Liam’s parents were thrilled with the progress he had made, and they were grateful for the support and guidance that I had provided them. They were amazed at how a few simple changes to Liam’s sleep routine had such a significant impact on his overall well-being and physical health.
Sleep Improves Mental Health
Sleep is critical for the mental and emotional well-being of babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Adequate sleep promotes healthy brain development, memory consolidation, and emotional regulation. When children do not get enough sleep, they are more likely to experience mood swings, irritability, and anxiety. On the other hand, when children get the recommended amount of sleep, they are more likely to be happy, relaxed, and better able to cope with the challenges of the day.
We all know how our mood changes when we haven’t got enough sleep as adults. But it’s like that on steroids for children. Sleep really helps with the regulation of a child’s emotions. During sleep, the brain processes and consolidates emotional experiences from the day. This means that when children get enough sleep, they are better able to regulate their emotions, cope with stress, and maintain a positive mood. Conversely, when children are sleep-deprived, they may have difficulty controlling their emotions, leading to tantrums, outbursts, and meltdowns.
Adaquete sleep also helps with the consolidation of learning and memory. During sleep, the brain consolidates the information learned during the day, making it easier to retrieve and use later on. This is particularly important for young children who are rapidly learning new skills and information. When children get enough sleep, they are more likely to retain what they have learned and build upon it the next day. This can lead to greater confidence, self-esteem, and academic success.
Sleep Helps with Academic Performance
Adequate sleep can also have a significant impact on a child’s academic performance. A well-rested child is more alert, attentive, and able to concentrate in school. Studies have shown that children who get adequate sleep perform better in academic tasks, have better memory retention, and perform better in problem-solving tasks.
A few weeks ago I worked with a preschooler named Emma who was struggling with her academic performance in school. Emma’s parents had reached out to me because they were concerned about her behavior in the classroom. Emma was having difficulty paying attention, was easily distracted, and was struggling to retain information. Her teacher had also spoke to them about how Emma was frequently tired and appeared to be nodding off in class. Emma was only getting about 8 hours of broken sleep throughout the night. Her parents absolutely dreaded bedtime because it generally took 2 – 3 hours for her to finally fall asleep after a lot of negotiating.
After working with Emma and her parents, it was easy to see that she wasn’t getting enough sleep and the sleep that she was getting was restless and interrupted. We worked together to establish a consistent sleep routine for Emma, which included setting a regular bedtime and wake-up time, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, and creating a sleep-friendly environment in her bedroom.
Within just a few weeks, Emma’s parents reported that she was sleeping better at night and seemed to have more energy during the day. Her teacher also noticed a significant improvement in her behavior and academic performance in the classroom. Emma was more focused, engaged, and attentive in class. She was able to retain information more effectively, and her overall academic performance improved significantly.
Emma’s parents were thrilled with the progress she had made, and they were grateful for the support and guidance that I had provided them. They were amazed at how a few simple changes to Emma’s sleep routine had such a significant impact on her overall well-being and academic performance.
Improved Social Skills
Getting enough sleep is crucial for a toddler or child’s social skills development as it affects their mood, behavior, and cognitive abilities. When a child is well-rested, they are more likely to have positive interactions with their peers, as they have more energy and are better able to regulate their emotions. For example, a rested child is more likely to be patient when waiting their turn to play with a toy, share with others, and take direction from adults.
A child who has had enough sleep is also more likely to have improved communication skills, which is essential for social development.
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Adequate sleep helps children retain new words and phrases, which allows them to express themselves better and interact more effectively with their peers. For instance, a well-rested child is better able to convey their feelings and needs to others, helping them to form closer relationships with their peers.
In addition, proper sleep helps children to better manage stress and regulate their emotions, which are essential skills for social interactions. A rested child is more likely to be able to control their impulses and manage their behavior, which enables them to better handle social situations. Awell-rested child is better able to handle conflicts with their peers, communicate effectively, and compromise when necessary.
Proper Sleep Is Best for a Child’s Well-Being
Finally, adequate sleep is essential for a child’s overall well-being. Children who get enough sleep are happier, more energetic, and better able to handle the challenges of everyday life. Adequate sleep is critical for a child’s growth and development, and it can have long-lasting benefits that can last well into adulthood.
Limit Screen Time
Screen time has become increasingly prevalent in our society, especially for children. However, excessive screen time can have negative impacts on a child’s mental and physical health, as well as their sleep patterns. Studies have shown that excessive screen time is associated with a higher risk of obesity, poor mental health, and poor academic performance.
One way in which excessive screen time can impact a child’s sleep is by interfering with their natural sleep-wake cycle. The blue light emitted from electronic devices can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep, making it more difficult for children to fall asleep and stay asleep. This can lead to sleep deprivation, which can negatively impact their mental and physical health.
Additionally, excessive screen time has been linked to poor mental health outcomes in children, including increased levels of anxiety, depression, and attention problems. This is thought to be due in part to the content of the media children are consuming, as well as the impact on social and emotional development from excessive use. The sedentary nature of screen time can also contribute to obesity, which in turn can lead to a range of physical health issues, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
So as you can see, excessive screen time can have negative impacts on a child’s sleep, mental health, and physical health. Parents can help mitigate these risks by setting limits on screen time, encouraging physical activity, and promoting healthy sleep habits. By doing so, parents can support their child’s overall well-being and help them thrive.
Spend Quality Time with Your Child
Spending one on one time with your child is essential for building a strong bond and nurturing a healthy relationship. When you give your child your undivided attention, you communicate to them that they are important and valued. This can help boost their self-esteem and create a sense of security, which is especially important during times of stress or change. When children feel secure and loved, they are more likely to be cooperative and open to learning, which can lead to better sleep and overall well-being.
Research has shown that one on one time with parents can have a positive impact on a child’s development and behavior throughout the day and at bedtime.
Studies have found that children who receive regular one on one time with their parents have higher self-esteem, better social skills, and are less likely to engage in risky behavior. In addition, spending time together can help foster a sense of connection and trust, which can lead to better communication and problem-solving skills. This, in turn, can help reduce stress and anxiety, which can improve sleep quality for both parent and child.
In today’s busy world, it can be challenging to find time to spend with your child. However, making an effort to prioritize one on one time can have a significant impact on your relationship and your child’s well-being. Whether it’s reading a book together, playing a game, or simply having a conversation, taking the time to connect with your child can help strengthen your bond and create cherished memories that will last a lifetime. And, as an added bonus, it may just lead to better sleep for everyone in the family!
Encourage Self Soothing
As children grow and develop, it’s important to teach them the skills they need to be independent and self-sufficient. One critical skill that preschoolers need to learn is how to self soothe at bedtime. This means being able to calm themselves down and fall asleep on their own, without relying on a parent or caregiver to help them. When children can self soothe, they are more likely to sleep through the night and wake up feeling rested and ready to take on the day.
Creating boundaries around bedtime is an important part of teaching children how to self soothe. This means establishing a consistent bedtime routine that helps children wind down and prepare for sleep. It also means setting limits around things like screen time, sugary snacks, and stimulating activities that can interfere with sleep. When children know what to expect at bedtime and have clear boundaries around sleep, they are more likely to feel secure and confident in their ability to fall asleep on their own.
Learning to self soothe and creating boundaries around bedtime can be challenging, but it’s a critical part of helping preschoolers establish healthy sleep habits that will benefit them for years to come. By teaching children to rely on themselves for comfort and relaxation, parents can help promote independence and self-confidence. And by setting consistent boundaries around bedtime, parents can create a sense of structure and routine that can help children feel safe and secure, leading to improved sleep and overall well-being.
You’re Not Alone
As a sleep coach, I understand how scary it can be to think about getting your little one to sleep without relying on all those crutches. That’s why I work with families to teach their babies how to fall asleep happily at bedtime and sleep through the night using gentle sleep training methods.
If you’re ready to get your family sleeping well, I’d love to help! Let’s start with a Discovery Call, where we can chat about your baby’s sleep habits and determine if we’re a good fit for each other. With my guidance, you can say goodbye to sleepless nights and hello to a well-rested family.