Making sure your child gets enough sleep has become even more important in the last couple of years because of the Covid pandemic. Sleep is just as important to your child’s health, as eating, drinking, and breathing.
Sleep affects your child’s development, mood, and immune system. Helping them to sleep better has so many benefits. Read on to discover the top 5 reasons why sleep is important and 5 ways parents can help toddlers get enough sleep. Before we look at how relaxation, nursery furniture, and routines can help, it’s important to understand why sleep is particularly important for children.
5 reasons sleep is important for children
1. Sleep helps children’s physical development
Babies spend 50% of their time in deep sleep, which is fundamental to adequate growth. This is because the Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is primarily secreted during deep sleep. This is just as important to Toddlers because HGH repairs muscles, tissues, and bones as they get stronger while learning to crawl, walk, and climb.
A study published in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics shows that toddlers’ bones grow more during sleep (when there is less pressure on them). This could be why some children complain of growing pains in their legs at night.
2. Sleep helps the brain process information
Most of your little one’s brain develops in their sleep. It’s also when toddlers consolidate memories and process new information. Therefore, sleep is vital when they are experiencing change or learning new things.
3. Sleep boosts mental health
Getting 11 to 14 hours of sleep a night is great for your toddler’s mental health. If your toddler doesn’t sleep well, they are more likely to suffer from irritability, increased stress, and low motivation. Over time, inadequate sleep can cause anxiety and depression in children. 1 or 2 hours of naps a day is also advised for little ones.
Remember, the safest sleep environment is a clear cot, without any suffocation or strangulation risks. For tips on reducing the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), read this article: Make Sure your Baby is Sleeping Safely
4. Sleep recharges the immune system
Poor sleep increases the risk of catching a cold. Making sure your child has adequate sleep helps T cells, which are white blood cells that fight infection. Some studies show that sleep improves the antibody response to vaccinations.
5. Sleep enhances concentration
Sleep deprivation makes children unable to concentrate and more likely to display signs of hyperactivity. When a child is sleep-deprived, they have less alertness, so they can’t focus on instructions and they get easily confused. The lack of sleep affects everyone’s mind, but it’s particularly difficult for young children. It affects their memory and behavior, making it harder to learn.
5 ways parents can help toddlers sleep better
1. Help them wind down before bed
Calm activities 30 minutes before bed help toddlers to relax and therefore fall asleep a little easier. Calming activities might include: reading, having a bath, drawing, yoga stretches, and breathing exercises.
If your child isn’t reading independently, you could have them listen to audiobooks. Quietly listening to an audiobook can help to quiet an overactive mind. It can distract children from worries and give them something to focus on rather than getting out of bed.
2. Maintain a consistent bedtime routine
This could include: turning off overhead lights and using dim table lamps 30 to 60 minutes before bed. Setting a bedtime routine will establish habits that make the brain recognize when it’s time to sleep.
When transitioning from a cot to a toddler bed, it’s particularly important to keep the bedtime routine as similar as possible so it doesn’t feel like a big change. A cot bed can help to make the transition a little easier because it feels more familiar. It’s still the same bed, just without the rails.
3 Make sure your child feels safe at night
Address any concerns your child might have. For example, if they are scared of the dark, invest in a nightlight. A bed guard might help them feel more secure if they are scared of falling out of the bed.
Noise cancellation can be soothing for children that are anxious at nighttime. White noise machines can also be helpful. At warmer times of the year, you could use a fan as a white noise generator as well as a cooling agent.
4. Keep regular sleep and wake times
No matter how old we are, going to bed and getting up at the same time helps our circadian rhythms. Children with a fixed bedtime tend to develop a sleep pattern easier than those who have routines that vary. Here are the recommended hours of sleep per age according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
|Age Group||Recommended Hours of Sleep Per Day|
|Newborn||0–3 months||14–17 hours (National Sleep Foundation)No recommendation (American Academy of Sleep Medicine)|
|Infant||4–12 months||12–16 hours per 24 hours (including naps)|
|Toddler||1–2 years||11–14 hours per 24 hours (including naps)|
|Preschool||3–5 years||10–13 hours per 24 hours (including naps)|
|School Age||6–12 years||9–12 hours per 24 hours|
|Teen||13–18 years||8–10 hours per 24 hours|
|Adult||18–60 years||7 or more hours per night|
|61–64 years||7–9 hours|
|65 years and older||7–8 hours|
5. Create a cozy environment
A soft cot bed mattress and cozy covers will help your little one to drift off to sleep in luxury. When comparing mattresses, pick one that is hypoallergenic to keep allergy symptoms at bay. Nursery grade foam is usually recommended over standard memory foam because it is more supportive for young children.
Bamboo fabric is softer than cotton and it’s said to be naturally hypoallergenic. Bamboo material is said to be slightly better for the environment because it has less need for pesticides and fertilizers than cotton. It’s breathable and prevents nasty odors because of its antimicrobial properties, to keep your little one’s cot bed fresh, clean, and cozy.