Everyone needs sleep to be healthy. Our bodies and brains need restorative sleep to keep every system functioning well. Sleep should be a priority for parents and children.
Sleep restores the brain
When you are exhausted, it is a struggle to think clearly. The brain needs sleep to function well. I know from my own experience that sleepless nights (usually caused by the many babies I have cared for) make me feel dull. My thoughts feel like they are trying to move through thick mud. Sleep experts recommend not to make any life-changing decisions such as job transfers or major purchases when you are sleep-deprived. You will have difficulty seeing the possible consequences of a decision.
Sometimes I hear desperate parents tell me they drive around to help their baby sleep in the car. I do not recommend that. If the child is not sleeping well, most likely the parent is not sleeping much either. An exhausted parent is at risk of falling asleep while driving or of having very poor driving judgment.
AAA did a research study on the effects of driving while sleep deprived. ” The AAA study found drivers who miss two to three hours of sleep a day more than quadruple their risk of getting in a crash, compared to drivers who sleep for seven hours.” I had a one sleep deprived, but wise Dad, tell me that he started using public transportation to get to work because he did not trust himself driving.
Lack of sleep also effects the mental ability of children. A sleep deprived baby has difficulty thinking and learning. Every baby processes a lot of new information each day. Learning moves into long-term memory during sleep. It is difficult for an exhausted child to learn and then remember the numerous skills they must master in their first couple of years. Learning becomes a struggle for a tired child.
Studies have shown that sleep promotes brain development in babies. We all want our baby to be smart. The best way for that to become a reality is to make sleep a priorty for your baby.
Sleep restores the body
Lack of sleep causes health problems for adults and children. Body systems have many functions they can only perform during sleep. The body needs sleep time to restore and repair itself. Research connects sleep deprivation to health issues like heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes, depressed immune system, and obesity in adults.
A child’s body grows during sleep. I recently worked with two different families because their babies were waking frequently. A tired child cannot eat well. Both of these babies would only eat if they were partially asleep. Each baby fell asleep after eating a small amount to satisfy their hunger. The babies ate enough to survive but not to grow.
I worked with both families to help their baby sleep better. The rested babies had more energy and their eating improved. One baby gained 2 pounds within 3 weeks! The parents and doctor were thrilled. The other baby went from eating one ounce per frequent feedings to eating 4 ounces every 3-4 hours.
Lack of sleep depresses the function of the immune system. A strong immune system fights the germs and viruses a child is exposed to. Well-rested children do not get sick as frequently.
Do your child and yourself a favor by making sleep a priority. Exhaustion is not fun or healthy for either the parent or the child.