Sleep is an important session for all human being. Studies on children and sleep show that sleep is the main activity of the brain in the early stages of a child’s development. It is also during this period that the brain develops rapidly. Children and sleep research show that infant sleep for long hours in the first fear week of life because their sleep/wake cycle is not well developed. However, by 3 months most infants have a well developed and consistent sleep wake cycle.
Studies done in an attempt to understand children and sleep show that children at 2 years spent more of their time awake than asleep. In fact, it is normal for a child to sleep for only 40% of their time at 2 years. Sleep is vital for not only physical but also mental development.
Children and Sleep: Importance of Good Night Sleep
There are two stages of sleep: Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) and Rapid Eye Movement (REM). Children and sleep research shows that in NREM the supply of blood in the muscle are increased leading to muscle rejuvenation, growth and repair. In addition, growth hormones are released during this stage. In REM – a stage associated with dreaming- the child’s imagination and creativity is sharpened.
Children and Sleep: Causes of Sleep Problems
Research on children and sleep shows that the most common sleep problems experienced by preschoolers are:
- Insomnia – in ability to fall asleep on time.
- Refusing to go to bed when directed to do so.
Children and sleep specialists believe that bedtime problems can occur in two main ways:
- Some children learn to relate sleep with external stimulation such as a hug or bedtime story. Falling asleep without these stimulations becomes difficult. These external forms of stimulation especially those involving the parent can affect sleep since they parent will not always be there.
- Children and sleep experts believe that children like testing their parent’s limits and patience as they grow older. They will only sleep if the parent passes the “test”. The parent’s refusal to give “the last or one more hug” can lead to tantrums that cause insomnia. It is important that parents learn to set limit and not fall into the child’s traps.
The above explained behaviors are signs of what children and sleep specialists call Behavioral Insomnia of Childhood.
Children and Sleep Problems: Common Triggers
Television- studies done on children and their sleep patterns showed that forth graders in America who watch T.V for long hours have higher rates of sleep problems. This can be attributed to the fact that they are not exposed to enough sunlight which controls the sleep/wake cycle. Parent should control their children’s outdoor and indoor activities.
- Naps are good for children but they should not be extended too late in the afternoon as this can lead to insomnia at night.
- Caffeine is a common stimulant found food and drinks. Coffee and colas should be kept away from kid in the first half of the day.
- Stress: Children and sleep studies show that stress can lead to insomnia. Stress among children can come from bullies in school and parent’s marital issues.
One of the best ways to reinforce the circadian rhythms in children is through positive sleep habits. However, these sleep habits should be “free” or “devoid” of parental influence as the kid grows up.