How Important Is A Full Night’s Sleep For My Child?
If you are a parent then it is very likely that you have been plagued with sleep queries from the moment your child was born. You will be asked if they are “good sleepers” before they have worn their second baby grow. As a society, we are absolutely obsessed with the idea of how well children sleep. In truth, it adds a great deal of pressure to parents. It can make us question what we are doing and put us in a very vulnerable position.
Some children are better sleepers than others. It can depend on how they feed, their diet and their personality to name a few factors. Some parents choose to go down the route of sleep training and others prefer a child-led approach to sleep. Some families co-sleep and others do not. There are so many variables that can have an impact on a child’s sleep pattern.
When it comes down to it though, how important is a full night’s sleep for your child? Is it unhealthy for them to sleep less than 12 hours at night?
Let's talk about the reasons why our children need sleep. I mean, I know why we need them to have sleep but what does it do for them day to day? Experts believe that most children require 10-11 hours of sleep per night. When children do not get enough sleep their mood will be cranky and irritable. When a person feels this way they struggle to think clearly or take directions. This can have a massive impact on basic functioning. It might be the very reason why your child’s behaviour is challenging. This can cause a bad atmosphere in the family home. Parents are frustrated and upset by their children’s mood-swings and tantrums and the reality is that the lack of sleep is fuelling most of the issues.
In terms of safety, not getting enough sleep can lead to children being very clumsy which is, of course, a health hazard. Children may drop things, trip up and find themselves in more dangerous situations as the lack of sleep has caused their cognitive functioning to change drastically. It’s a bit like when we as adults feel sleep deprived and can’t remember basic facts or the laptop password we type in every day. Everything works at a slower pace and we are more likely to make mistakes.
Insufficient sleep can also affect our children’s immunity. If our child is fighting an infection of some sort the body’s ability to fight it off is challenged when enough sleep has not been obtained. This is why you will often hear doctor’s recommending that you let your child “sleep it off” when they are sick. You may find yourself encouraging unusual naps or noticing that they sleep in later the next day. Sleep gives the cells time to repair and rebuild which is a huge aspect of any healing process. There has also been a link to obesity and lack of sleep so this shows us that sleep can directly affect our children’s health in many ways.
And perhaps the most important point to be made is the simple fact of energy. Our children’s lives involve play-dates, crafting, school, running around and learning so many different things daily. Without enough sleep, our children may appear uninspired and unenthusiastic to do many of these things because they do not have the energy or mood required. This may lead to our children missing out on experiences that could enrich their lives and help them grow physically, socially and emotionally.
I wish we had the magic answer to help your child sleep better but from one mum whose child was always a terrible sleeper let me reassure you that it does get better and THIS TOO SHALL PASS.
Written by Tracey Quinn staff writer at FFHQ who also blogs at www.loveofliving.ie.