Blog - The importance of sleep for children and parents.
Updated: Sep 3, 2018
Did you know that you can live longer without food than you can without sleep? As parents, our children and their behaviour can be a constant source of worry, yet parents are much more likely to seek professional help if their child won’t feed or eat, than if they don’t sleep well.
When you have a baby, you expect to have sleepless nights. It’s just part of the course of being a parent. But at what point does poor sleeping start to become problematic? As a mother with a son who thought “snoozing was losing”, I know firsthand what happens when you don’t get enough sleep. For me it involved a lot of crying, time off work and ready meals! Sleep deprivation is quite simply awful. Historically it has been used as a form of torture and has been thought to be responsible for some of the world’s worst disasters.
Research suggests that between 20-30 % of all infants and toddlers will have some sleep issues and of those, 84% will continue to have sleep problems until the age of 5 unless something is done to help. That’s a lot of sleepless nights!
Sleep allows our bodies to repair and our brains to consolidate learning. Poor sleep is linked to weakened immune systems, so it’s no surprise that tired families feel like they pick up every bug going.
If a child is sleep deprived, they may become irritable and more likely to have tantrums. Maybe it is not such a coincidence that the “terrible twos” is the age when a child usually stops napping in the day? Children who do not get enough sleep may also be more likely to suffer emotional and behavioural difficulties and there can also be a significant impact on a child’s development.
Sleep studies show that without the right amount of sleep, children are less likely to be able to retain information or learn new skills, due to lack of concentration.
Signs that your child may be sleep deprived include; excessive yawning, “bad” behaviour, poor appetite and catching more colds or bugs than usual. Whilst in some cases there are genuine medical reasons for the above or indeed for poor sleeping, for the majority of children, poor sleeping is habitual. Things that “worked” to get your child sleeping as an infant, can suddenly stop working, leaving you trying a multitude of new ways to try and get your child to sleep. It is often at this point, when the parents feel they have tried everything, that they give up trying to make positive changes, accepting that their child is only young for such a short time and that they will laugh about this when they are trying to drag their teenager out of bed for school!
The good news is that there are simple and effective ways to ensure your child is getting enough sleep and is developing healthy sleep habits. A good simple bedtime routine and a consistent approach can make the world of difference in just a few weeks, or sometimes less. If you can get your child sleeping well, this will be life changing not just for you but for your child as well. It will improve so many other aspects of your life, such as, work, relationships and health and make a difference to your child’s health and development too.