Sleep is important to babies and children, as it is a time for the body to not only rest but also to undergo important functions such as cell growth and repair. Without sleep babies and children (& adults!) feel horrible, mood swings are evident and body functions are slower.
The midbrain of a child is not fully formed until they are around 3 years of age, so the periods of sleep here is most important as it allows for the growth of neuronal connections that allow for cognitive function and the acquisition of new skills.
Sleep is when most of the growth hormones are released to aid in the growth and development of the child.
As well, sleep is a time for the child to process their new memories and to commit old ones to their long-term memory. It helps them to process their world and experiences.
Sleep is an important part of development as it allows the body time to conserve energy and restore.
It is a time of consolidation for the body as well as giving us back much needed energy to function and learn.
Sleep occurs in stages throughout the night:
Non-REM (NREM) Sleep or Quiet or Slow Wave Sleep
The NREM or deep sleep occurs before midnight and this is where cell rejuvenation occurs.
Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep or Active Sleep
Most REM or dream sleep occurs after midnight.
- Very light sleep (although not experienced by young babies)
- Light sleep – the child is falling asleep, the baby or infant is experiencing transient thoughts, is easily roused and is a calming down phase
- The beginning of deep sleep (NREM) – the body and mind are resting, growth hormones are released, cell growth and repair are taking place, the breathing is slower and during this stage the child is usually hard to rouse. It is also, during this stage night terrors, tooth grinding and sleep walking can happen. Bedwetting is also common in this stage.
- Deepest sleep (REM) – this is where dreaming takes place, it is a time for consolidating thoughts, it is where the babies or young child’s short term memory is being converted to their long term memory, it is a period of brain growth and the child could be easily woken, the body is immobile and relaxed. Nightmares could occur during this stage of sleep.
Sleep Hygiene is the associations we develop with going to bed. Nothing I am pleased to say with how clean your house is!
Sleep hygiene can include:
- age appropriate timings
- going to bed drowsy but not exhausted
- a wind-down routine
- bedroom environment
- associating the bedroom with peace, calm and sleep
- uncluttered bedroom
- the right temperature, dark and quiet
How would you say your sleep hygiene is going on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being I have cracked it and 1 being it has all gone to pot and we are never sleeping again?
Before you believe all is lost when it comes to a good nights sleep, here are my Top Tips on how to get the most from your Bedtime Routine.
- Do the same thing every night, in the same order, a predictable pattern.
- Bedtime starts way before you actually turn up in the bedroom, so start early! Wind-down time, off electronics, calming activities etc.
- Include only 3 to 4 elements to your routine.
- Your routine should have momentum and focus but with an aim to keep things calm.
- argue or negotiate with kids around bedtime!
- Prolong the routine so you or your kids get a second wind.
- Skip the routine.
- Change the order (this is more for younger children).
- Have too many elements.
What do you have as part of your bedtime routine for either you or your child(ren) that is working at the moment?