Sleep…we all want it and need it!
Sleep…when you don’t have it that is when you realize how much you miss it, at least for adults! I can remember those days when all 4 kids were small, and sleep was a precious commodity. There were some mornings that I looked at the clock when I woke up and counted how many hours until I could sleep again! There were always those nights that were either too short or at least too interrupted to feel rested. If I wasn’t rested, at least one child wasn’t either. That is not a good combination, a tired Mom and a tired child usually makes a long day. It is so frustrating to know that your child is tired, but just can’t settle to sleep, there is no “on/off” switch for kids! If there was, I would have flipped it “off” on many occasions!
Sleep is so important for children; it is a true health issue. Families are so busy that often sleep is not a priority, and it needs to be! Not “depositing” valuable sleep into your child’s “sleep bank” can result in sleep deprivation, and that can cause real problems for you and your child’s development.
Dr. Marc Weissbluth MD is one of my favorite sleep experts. His book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is one of my “go to” books for sleep questions. He tells us that:
“Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm. Every night and at every nap, sleep recharges the brain’s battery. Sleeping well increases brainpower just as weight lifting builds stronger muscles, because sleeping well increases your attention span and allows you to be physically relaxed and mentally alert at the same time. Then you are at your personal best.”
So healthy sleep includes the correct amount, sleep time that is uninterrupted or good quality, and age appropriate naps. Children who are not getting the proper amount or quality of sleep can be over stimulated, whiny, aggressive, hyperactive, and chronic sleep deprivation may even affect the neurological development of a child.
So, how long should your child sleep?
Newborn to 2 months 16-18 hours in a 24 hour period 3-5 naps a day
2 to 4 months 14-16 hours in a 24 hour period 3 naps a day
4 to 6 months 14-15 hours in a 24 hour period 3 naps a day
6 to 9 months 14 hours in a 24 hour period 2 naps a day
9 to 12 months 14 hours in a 24 hour period 2 naps a day
12 to 18 months 13 – 14 hours in a 24 hour period 1-2 naps a day
18 months to 2 years 13 – 14 hours in a 24 hour period 1 nap a day
2 – 3 years 13 – 14 hours in a 24 hour period 1 nap a day
3 – 5 years 11 – 13 hours in a 24 hour period maybe 1 nap a day
Remember…this is a guideline but most children will fall within these guidelines. Most parents under estimate the number of hours of sleep their child needs.
Your child’s quality of sleep is important. Your little one must be able to cycle through the stages of sleep to get the optimal benefit from sleep. The quality of sleep is what is so important in your child’s neurological development.
Now I hear parents saying…”How can I make my child sleep?” The truth is, you can’t. You can make it easier for your child to fall asleep and stay asleep but you can’t force sleep. All children have a rhythm to their sleep pattern. In the first few months that rhythm is almost non existent. As your baby approaches the end of the 3rd month, you will begin to see a bit of predictability and rhythm. When you help your child find his or her rhythm with a calm routine and by watching for sleep cues, then your child’s sleep becomes deeper and more effective. A rested child sleeps better….a child who sleeps better is more rested…it is a cycle.
So, as parents we must protect our child’s sleep. We help our children establish good sleep habits…it is so much easier to form good habits than break bad ones! So, give sleep the importance that it is due and your life will be easier and your child will be healthier, happier, less demanding, and more fun to be around. The bonus will be that you might get a little more sleep too!
Stay tuned all week for tips on forming good sleep habits, breaking bad sleep habits, and tools to tackle sleep strategies for your child. Maybe a little bedtime reading for you! 🙂
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.