Ever looked at your child and wondered if s/he is getting enough sleep. How many naps should your child be taking? How much night sleep is developmentally appropriate? What happens if your child doesn’t get enough sleep? Healthy sleep means that your child is getting enough sleep for their age, at developmentally appropriate times, and for an appropriate length. There are many ways to support healthy sleep, and knowing the benefits is the first step.
Benefits of Healthy Sleep
Children who are well-rested have benefits in cognitive areas, safety, mood, and overall health.
Cognitive ability is improved with quality rest meaning that your child will learn more quickly, be able to pay attention more effectively, and retain information better. For infants and toddlers, developing physical skills and reaching milestones will be easier because their brain and body have enough rest to help them be successful. As children get older, they will remember things they have learned (vocabulary, school and social skills) much better, and even make better decisions.
In addition to cognitive skills, your child’s body will function much better if they have had enough rest. Walking, running, climbing, and even dancing can become a challenging task. I can always tell when my children are tired towards the end of the day, and often it is because they are falling down doing tasks that are simple for them. If you see this often, and your child is not going through a growth spurt, re-evaluate the amount of sleep your child is receiving.
I’m sure you’ve seen it at one point…your child drops a toy and melts down. While it may not seem like a “big deal” to you, and it may not be, your child is very upset. When children are not getting enough sleep, they can be more irritable. Another possibility is that children become overtired and become hyperactive.
Your child’s immune system functions much better when their body is well-rested, which means they can fight off infections easier. Increased blood pressure and stress hormones (common with less sleep) also make it harder to fight infections. As my mom used to always say “Sleep is the best medicine.”
Children need much more sleep than adults, and providing the correct amount of sleep will help them be happy and healthy children. Babies from birth to 4 months will sleep often, and there is not a set schedule for them at this age, sleeping more than they are awake. Beginning around 4 months of age babies fall into a more predictable sleep schedule and take more consistent naps each day. Between 4-8 months you can expect your baby to take 3 naps day, totaling 12-15 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.
At 8 months of age babies transition to two naps per day, and then between 15-18 months will transition to one nap a day. Preschoolers transition out of naps between the ages of 3 and 5, and your child will show you signs they are ready by decreasing the amount of time they nap during the day.
If you are having difficulty helping your child sleep the recommended amount, contact me for additional tips and support that can help your child get the rest they need.
Written by: Julia Walsh, Certified Sleep Consultant
Julia Walsh is a mother of two, and a Certified Sleep Consultant with Good Night Sleep Site North Carolina. She has taught preschool for 8 years, and has a degree in Child Development. When she’s not playing with Legos and dolls or baking yummy treats with her children, she helps families overcome their sleep challenges. You can contact Julia at www.goodnightsleepsite.com/northcarolina or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Julia on Facebook (Good Night Sleep Site North Carolina) and Twitter (@GoodNightNC) for daily sleep tips and advice.