Good, Sound Sleep for Your Child
Making sure your child gets good, sound sleep ensures he or she will have a sound foundation for proper mind and body development.
Essentials of Healthy Sleep continued...
Quality of sleep: Quality sleep is uninterrupted sleep
that allows your child to move through all the different and necessary stages
of sleep. The quality of sleep is as important as the quantity, playing its
essential role in nervous system development.
Naps: Naps play a large role in the healthy sleep of
children. They help optimize your child's alertness and have an impact on her
learning and development. Naps are also quite different from night sleep. Not
only are they not the same kind of sleep, naps at different times of the day
serve different functions. That is one reason why the timing of naps is
important, and why they need to occur in sync with your child's natural
In sync: We wake; we are alert; we become drowsy; we
sleep. This ebb and flow, the fluctuations in alertness, all happen as part of
our natural daily biological rhythms.
These rhythms are irregular in the first few months of a
child's life, but gradually become more regular and develop with maturity. When
sleep (naps and nighttime) is in sync with these rhythms, it is most effective,
most restorative. When out of sync, it is not and can disturb the rest of the
rhythm or cycle, making it more difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, for
example. This may result in your child becoming overtired and stressed. So it
is important to be aware of the timing of your child's sleep needs and adjust
your schedule as best you can to be in sync with hers.
Consequences of Sleep Disturbances
Sleep disturbances, for whatever reason, have significant and
often serious consequences. In his book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy
Child, Weissbluth states:
"Sleep problems not only disrupt a child's nights -- they
disrupt his days, too, by making him less mentally alert, more inattentive,
unable to concentrate, and easily distracted. They also make him more
physically impulsive, hyperactive, or lazy."
Chronic sleep deprivation: It is important to realize
that the effects of chronic sleep deprivation are cumulative: daytime
sleepiness increases progressively. This means that even small sleep changes,
over time, will have significant negative effects. Likewise, small changes
allowing a bit more sleep may have similarly positive effects. It all depends
on the type and degree of the sleep problem.
Fatigue: Even seemingly minor sleep deprivation causes
fatigue in children. And for a child, simply being awake a certain amount of
time is over-stimulating and fatiguing, even if she is not engaged in any
activity at all.
Especially during the day, with friends and family, she wants
to be part of the action and so her natural response to fatigue is to
"fight it." That is, she tries to remain awake and alert. This results
in the secretion of hormones like adrenaline, which then cause her to become
hyper alert. She is now wide-awake but exhausted. Fussiness, irritability and
crankiness soon follow. She also cannot be attentive and learn well at this
time. This is why overtired children often appear wide-awake, wired, and
hyperactive. Now you have a situation where she is so pumped up she cannot
easily fall asleep.
Interestingly this also often induces night awakenings. So
don't be fooled by your seemingly wide-awake, not-tired child and put her to
bed later. Putting her to bed earlier is actually the remedy. Sometimes even
15-20 minutes earlier may have a significant impact and be all that is needed.
You may also be surprised to find that a well rested child is easier to put to