Why is Sleep Important for Your Child’s Development?
Sleep is more than just sweet dreams—it is the foundation of healthy development throughout our lives, and especially for babies and children. So what does healthy sleep look like for your child?
In terms of quantity, children need a lot of sleep. In fact, most will spend 40% of their childhood asleep!
By 7-9 months, baby should have a reliable sleep schedule (which means baby may not sleep through the night until around 6 months). A sleep schedule helps to develop circadian rhythms, which are regular and natural sleep patterns that promote cognitive and motor development.
All the way into their teenage years, children need more sleep than adults to promote healthy development.
Even though you’re not aware of it, your body is doing so much in your sleep—and the same is true for your child!
In fact, sleep helps children to:
- Reduce stress, balancing hormone levels and giving your little ball of energy some time to calm down.
- Support organ health, particularly their heart, due to less stress.
- Maintain a healthy weight, as lack of sleep can throw off their body signals, meaning they may not be able to tell when they’re full and will be more prone to overeating. Additionally, everyone is more likely to crave unhealthy foods or avoid physical activity when they’re tired.
- Keep germs away, because they produce proteins during sleep that fight off illness.
- Make learning easier, because a well-rested mind has an increased attention span.
But it’s not just about quantity of sleep; quality matters, too! Learn more about what you can do if your little one is struggling to sleep.
- Depending on their age, read about sleep solutions for babies and sleep solutions for kids.
- Understand that experiencing a variety of sleep patterns is very typical in the first 6 months of baby’s life. They should begin to develop a reliable sleep schedule around 7-9 months, however they still may experience periods of irregular sleep, especially during growth spurts.
- If problems persist, talk to a healthcare provider. There are a variety of healthcare professionals that can address sleep issues, including pediatricians, mental and behavioral health clinicians, occupational therapists (OTs), sleep medicine doctors, and ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists.