Sleep is really important for babies and young children as it is during this time that vital growth and repair occurs. Both mental and physical well being are affected by sleep and studies show that if a child doesn’t have enough sleep their ability to learn, grow and relax may be impaired. We know from our own experience that when a child has slept well they are likely to be generally happier and more energetic.
Babies and children experience different phases of sleep; rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and deep sleep.
This is what occurs during the REM phase of sleep:
- Blood supply to the brain is increased
- Synapses join in the brain and new brain cells are produced
- Leading to a child having the ability to be more mentally alert
- Ability to retain and process information is more efficient.
- Cognitive ability is enhanced
And during deep sleep:
- The body is able to restore itself
- More blood is directed to developing muscles
- Hormones vital for growth and development are released
- The white blood cells that support our immune system are released
- Cells divide more quickly during deep sleep, allowing repair to growing tissue
Toddlers and young children who are not getting enough sleep may struggle with difficult behaviour, impatience and poor appetite. In addition to feeling brighter and more energetic after a good sleep, learning to get enough sleep is a skill that will teach babies and young children good habits for a productive and healthy lifestyle in the future.