Everyone is aware of the importance that sleep plays in their everyday lives. We know that we don't feel quite right when we are operating on less sleep. The concept of a good night of sleep is even more important for children though than it is for adults!
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It turns out that when anyone (child or adult) doesn't get enough sleep, concentration will be impacted right away. On a more long term basis, more serious health problems can occur. But the impact that sleep deprivation has on the minds of children is absolutely amazing and very concerning. Children need good sleep to help their brain develop and take in new data and understand what to do with that data.
Dr. Rachel Dawkins writes for Johns Hopkins Children's Hospital the following guidelines for determining how much sleep children need for optimal physical and mental development.
- Less than a year - 12 to 16 hours per day.
- 1 to 2 years - 11 to 14 hours per day.
- 3 to 5-year-olds - 10 - 13 hours per day.
- 6 to 12-year-olds - 9 - 12 hours per day.
- Teenagers need 8 to 10 hours per day. (So they don't need quite the 14 hours they may want to sleep each day!)
Astonishingly infants and toddlers need an intense amount of time to sleep. This is because their brain tissue is still in an intense amount of development. When babies sleep, the brain is essentially upgrading its software by connecting different parts and making the neural pathways solid and strong. Sleep has a calming influence and allows the brain to recharge itself.
Napping has a recharging effect allowing children to have improved memory. This means that new information is much more likely to be retained if the child has received a proper amount of sleep including napping. Beyond the benefits of learning new information, babies also thrive with more consistent sleep patterns.
When babies don't get enough sleep, that tend to be more irritable and unable to settle themselves. Babies and toddlers that receive enough sleep are better able to play with others, seeking more social interaction where they can and will learn from one another. The sad reality for babies that don't sleep well is that they have continued difficulty getting into positive and healthy sleep patterns. Over time these behaviors become a major problem that can last for years even into school years.
Better sleep makes children more adaptable and mentally able to face different challenges. The sooner positive patterns of sufficient sleep establish themselves, the better-prepared children will be for adolescence. This continues to be important into adulthood since sleep has also been linked to lowering the effects of stress and improving both physical and mental health. The importance of napping also can't be understated. Solid sleep each night for children is clearly necessary, but added periods of time through the day for napping are also important for physical and mental health.
So while we can all fundamentally agree that sleep does so much for our physical and mental well being on a daily basis, it seems that the impact that it can have on learning is also significant. Even from infancy, brain development and positive effects that occur as a result of an adequate amount of sleep are truly amazing. So for those that are parents to infants or young children, it is important to take their sleep habits seriously from the beginning.
Following the guidelines listed above for the recommended amount of sleep each day is a best bet for making sure your children (and even you) will be getting peak performance and efficiency for your brain making you smarter and more alert each and every day.