Sufficient sleep critical for early childhood development

It’s critical for parents to understand the importance of sufficient sleep during early childhood development and ensure infants in particular sleep for 11-14 hours every day – Vineeta Kumar

early childhood

Restful sleep is critical for the physical and emotional well-being of human beings of all ages, but in early childhood it is of greater importance because it’s during sleep that essential bodily growth and development happens. It’s during sleep that the body heals and repairs heart and blood vessels and crucial brain development occurs. Therefore it’s ctitical for parents to understand the importance of sufficient sleep in children’s early physical development and ensure infants in particular sleep for 11-14 hours every day.

Sleep cycles

An adult’s sleep cycle usually lasts for 90-110 minutes, but an infant’s is 50-60 minutes. The sleep cycle consists of deep and active sleep. Immediately after you put your infant to sleep, you may notice active sleep with her making movements and expressions. During this time, she may awaken easily. Active sleep is important because it’s when the body increases blood supply to the brain, enabling it to build nerve cells. After 50-60 minutes, she will settle into deep sleep with rhythmic, regular breathing. At this time, you won’t see much movement or twitching eyelids.

During deep sleep, growth hormones are released by the pituitary gland, and tissue replacement occurs.
Initially, your infant may awaken frequently for feeds, but as she grows, she will need longer hours of continuous sleep to facilitate motor and brain development and tissue replacement. Newborns can’t differentiate between night and day. Therefore you need to build that awareness by leaving windows open during the day. Post sunset, use dull lighting, and let your infant learn the difference between day and night.

During a growth spurt, your child’s sleep routine may change. She may sleep longer, or less. Try to breastfeed the infant at the end of the day. That will help her sleep longer night hours.

Ways to improve your child’s sleep

• At bedtime, dim the lights, draw curtains
• Play soothing music or use a white noisemaker (a natural sleep aid device)
• Follow a bedtime routine. Tuck her into bed, draw the curtains and say good night. Your child will learn to associate these rituals with sleep.
• Ensure your infant is warm and comfortable.
• Encourage her to fall asleep on her own. Using a rocking cradle or crib, because rocking a child to sleep in your arms can reduce her ability to fall asleep on her own.
• A wet diaper can cause discomfort during sleep; ensure that you check and change diapers regularly.
• An evening bath will help your infant sleep restfully through the night.
• Ban mobile phones, tablets and other devices from her bedroom. They affect the quality of sleep.
• Read her a bedtime story.
• As a family, sleep at a set time every night. Your infant will learn that when you are ready for bed, it’s time for her to sleep as well.

Also read: Less sleep in children who use devices before bed

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