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Children's Health

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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...

Length of sleep: Children simply must have a sufficient amount of sleep to grow, develop, and function optimally. How much is right for your child varies by age. Remember, each child is unique and individual variation occurs.

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 biological rhythms.

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."

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