Babies spend at least 50% of their time sleeping. A good night’s sleep, no doubt makes your baby happy, healthy and smart. This sleep time is very much essential for physical development, social skills development and emotional development of your baby. It is vital to newborns as they grow rapidly within a small period of time.
As a parent, you must have already realized how happy and cheerful your baby will be after a good amount of rest, and how cranky and fussy your baby can be when it has not slept to its content. It always helps to establish good sleep habits to avoid sleep problems later.
In my native tongue, there is an old proverb which means – “One who loses sleep, loses his mind as well.”
No doubt that a good nap can make your baby less cranky, less fussy and easy to calm down. In simple words, a good sleep makes your baby behave well, respond well to stimulus and relate well to others.
What happens when babies don’t get enough sleep?
Though we may think that sleep is just another natural process, lack of quality sleep can affect your babies’ physical and cognitive growth, emotional and behavioral responses and social skills.
In fact, it may even affect the learning abilities of your baby, may impair growth and even cause obesity.
For babies, losing as less as one hour of sleep per day can show up as sleep deprivation. So, you have to always ensure that you not only meet your baby’s nutritional needs but sleeping needs as well.
Let’s see what lack of quality sleep leads to.
- Brain development gets impaired due to lack of sleep. Research has shown that sleep restriction potentially affects the brain activity in children.
- Lack of sleep affects the physical growth of your baby as high amounts of growth hormones are released only during sleep. Lack of growth hormones may lead to your baby not growing to full height or not putting on the expected weight.
- Sleep deprivation causes the production of higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone in the body. This leads to irritability and fussiness throughout the day. Your baby might get anxious and might not show interest in any activities or in learning new skills.
- Lack of sleep can indirectly cause obesity in children. A sleep-deprived child will have less amount of the hormone – leptin which signals our brain to stop eating. Low amount of this hormone leads to overeating in children, which in turn leads to obesity.
- Sleep deprivation may even lower immunity in children. Children who sleep well are known to be less prone to seasonal infections and other common infant diseases.
Now that you know what sleep deprivation can lead to, let us understand how much sleep to babies really needs.
How much sleep do babies need?
#1. Newborns (0-3 months) –
Newborns usually sleep for 15-18 hours a day. Their sleep pattern is rather irregular and last from a few minutes to several hours. At this stage, most babies mostly sleep in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage where the sleep is lighter and can be easily disrupted. This type of sleep is considered to be very important for the brain development of the child.
This is the phase when a baby learns face recognition and bonds with the mother. Sleep disruption in this initial phase can affect a child’s association with the world and with social bonds, later in life. It is very critical to understand sleep signs around this age. Lack of sleep can result in stress and crankiness. Interestingly, products like gentle vibrating mats and white noise devices are now available in the market and can help your baby relax and sleep.
#2. Infants (4-11 months)
Between the age of 4-11 months, babies sleep 14-15 hours a day. Their sleeping pattern will usually be established. Their nap time may vary from 30 minutes to 2 hours at a time. The social skills of the infant develop significantly during this time. If the child feels secure in its environment, it will develop better sleeping patterns.
This is a significant emotional development and can affect sleep patterns and how children behave as they grow older.
#3. Toddlers (1-2 years)
Between 1-2 years of age, your toddler’s nap time reduces to once a day, for a period of 1-3 hours. Their total sleep time also reduces to 11-15 hours per day. At this stage, children assert to be independent and their motor, social and cognitive skills speed up. Toddlers usually love to explore and learn new things at this stage and may not be interested to go to bed.
However, lack of sleep can make them irritable and moody and affect their behavioral skills. This is the time you have to ensure that your child gets quality sleep, and also set a bedtime routine. Better sleep patterns and bedtime routine can have a long-term benefit on the sleeping habits of your child. Please understand that every baby might not have the same sleeping pattern. If your baby looks contented and active after waking up, it indicates that she has had a good slumber.
Do not force your child to sleep when she does not look sleepy or show any indications of wanting to rest. However, if they show signs of wanting to sleep you can help them to settle down into a comfortable mattress or even sing a lullaby.
What are the benefits of sleep?
We know what ill-effects sleep deprivation can have on babies, and now it is time to know the benefits of having a good sleep.
- A good sleep helps your baby’s brain to restore the resources that were used up throughout the day. A well-rested brain can be calm, learn new information and attempt to pick up new skills.
- The attention span of kids who have sufficient sleep is known to be higher than those who lack sleep.
- A well-rested brain can solve problems faster, be more creative and make better decisions.
- A good sleep can give the required boost to your child’s growth as maximum quantity of growth hormones are released during sleep.
- Good sleep improves immunity and decreases the chances of general health problems and emotional difficulties like anxiety and depression.
- Babies who sleep well are more energetic and playful. They calm down easily and don’t tend to be fussy.
- Babies who sleep well maintain good relationships with others and adjust well to new environments.
In general, a baby who sleeps well grows well, learns well and keeps away diseases as well!
Tips for better sleep
Here are some tips for a good night’s rest for your baby.
- Set a consistent bedtime. Establish a routine throughout the day. It will set their body clock to know that it’s time to zzzzzzzs and they are ready to go to sleep without any fuss.
- You can use products that can help your baby sleep better. There are a lot of such products in the market that are safe and very effective such as white noise speakers, gentle vibrating mats and ambient lights to enable your baby to sleep peacefully.
- Avoid any stimulating activities like TV, games or videos before bedtime.
- Ensure that your baby’s room is dark and quiet.
- Always use a comfortable mattress and soft, cotton sheets for your baby.
- If your baby is already potty trained or getting potty trained, ensure that they use the washroom before they sleep to get uninterrupted sleep.
- Never try to wake up a sleeping baby. Allow your child to wake up on her own.
Dear Parents, no doubt that you also become sleep deprived when your baby does. It just takes an extra effort to help your baby settle down into a daily routine of sleep and play time so that you can also catch a good amount of sleep as well. Your effort will be rewarded as your baby will soon grow to be hale, healthy and cheerful child, who is not only physically strong and a fast learner, but also can manage her emotions as well.