As most new parents know, the best sight in the world is a sleeping baby. Not only are they so peaceful and cute, it also means a quiet moment to yourself — even if those moments can be short lived. Here’s the thing, not only is it cute, it’s giving your baby a blueprint for a healthy and successful life.
Thanks to sleep science, we know that a healthy sleep schedule is important for everyone, but no one moreso than a developing child. That’s why they spend so much time doing it. Babies spend up to twelve hours a day sleeping, an amount that curtails itself as a baby reaches its toddler years. Those numbers still remind high through all of childhood, though, sleep scientists recommend that elementary and middle school age children get up to ten hours of sleep, while high schoolers should get at least nine. Those numbers may seem high when you look at the sleep recommendations for an adult (which usually top out at eight), but it’s important to remember that there are some pretty powerful developments happening inside of a child.
More Brain Power
Sleep is vitally important in its role growing brain tissue. Not only that, during good sleep more connections are made and strengthened between the different sections of the brain. This is an such an important time in a baby’s development that scientists aren’t sure if baby’s should sleep even more often than the prescribed twelve hours.
In a 2017 study titled, “Brains and Language” researchers found that toddlers who napped after learning a new word were more likely to recall that word at a later date. Additionally, those babies who slept were more likely to use the word correctly and apply it to different conversations, representing a more advanced cognitive understanding of language. The authors of the study surmised that sleep is an indispensable part of encoding and retention, skills that compound over time.
Healthier and Happier
Not only are well-slept babies smarter, they’re happier. It’s no secret that a tired baby can keep a parent up late at night, but it doesn’t just stop with crying. Babies who sleep more are found to be more social, able to adapt to new experiences and other people better than babies who don’t sleep as much. There’s also evidence to suggest that babies who sleep more are more creative, able to entertain themselves for longer periods of time than their less-slept counterparts.
Unfortunately, less sleep can be a vicious cycle. A baby who is overtired can also have a hard time falling asleep the next night, exacerbating the problem instead of alleviating it. That’s why it’s so important to set up consistent routines for sleep and healthy sleep hygiene. If you’ve set up a pattern of good behavior, it’s so much easier to get back into a good night’s sleep — for you, and for your baby.
That being said, don’t sweat it if you feel like you’re battling your child sometimes for an early bedtime. All things come in cycles, and the best thing you can do is to not stress too much. A baby’s natural state is to want good sleep. Just be sure to be ready for them when they’re nodding off.