Sleep Wellness- How important it is for the mental and emotional growth of the child?

Sleep Wellness- How important it is for the mental and emotional growth of the child?

From the day I became a mom, I was bombarded with advice about various aspects of parenting. The one thing that people seemed to stress the most was ensuring that the little one followed a good sleep schedule. Even though I was aware of the importance of getting enough sleep, I became anxious about how not getting enough sleep would affect my baby.

My anxiety grew even more when my baby’s sleep pattern started interfering with my own sleep schedule. In the first few weeks, he spent most of his time sleeping, but after a month or so, his periods of wakefulness started to increase gradually. Sadly, these periods of wakefulness occurred not only during the daytime but also at night.  So, I decided to do some research on the topic, and here is what I learned.

Babies Have A Different Sleep Schedule

The first important thing that I learned about babies’ sleep schedule is that it is significantly different from the one that we follow as adults. While adults need to sleep at least 6-7 hours every day to stay fit and healthy, babies need to sleep for significantly longer times. In fact, most newborn babies need to sleep for at least 16-20 hours a day for the first four weeks of their life. The sleep duration gradually reduces to 14-17 hours a day as the babies grow older and settles at 12-14 hours a day for toddlers who are more than 1 year old.

 These sleep duration is spread across 24 hours with interruptions for feeding and other activities. Another interesting fact that I learned was that while babies between the ages of 3-12 months need 8-9 hours of sleep every night, toddlers above I year, require 10 hours of sleep each night. Unfortunately, my son slept for no more than 12 hours every day, including his daytime naps and this worried me.

Why Is Sleep Important For Wellness of Babies?

Premature babies, i.e. babies born before time, require even more sleep than babies who are delivered after the completion of full tenure. The good news is that once babies reach the age of three months, their sleep cycle becomes more regular. Babies of this age tend to nap 3-4 times a day and the duration of their nighttime sleep also increases.

However, some babies, including my son, do not adapt to the regular sleep pattern naturally even after passing the age of three months. In such cases, we as parents need to set the right routine to ensure that the babies get enough sleep.

What Happens When Babies Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

I can tell you firsthand that babies not getting enough sleep is not good for them or us as parents. As I mentioned before, babies experience rapid growth spurts, and most of these spurts occur while the babies are sleeping. So for one, lack of enough and proper sleep can impact their growth and development. Even though these impacts may not be immediately evident, they can be the most serious. Babies may suffer from issues like low immunity, slow physical growth, and development, poor brain development leading to lack of cognition and concentration, low memory, and other such problems.

Apart from the above issues, other problems resulting from babies not getting enough or proper sleep include loss of appetite or even constipation. Some babies may become extremely cranky and cry all the time or may exhibit symptoms of excessive fatigue. Some parents may also experience sudden weight gain or an increase in the moodiness of their babies caused mainly due to lack of sleep. I was experiencing many of these changes in my son and was aware of the fact that I needed to correct his sleep schedule before things got out of hand. 

Understanding The Sleep Cycle Of Babies

Before I could correct the sleep schedule for my son, I first needed to gain a thorough understanding of the term sleep cycle. The sleep cycle for babies is the pattern of sleep and wakefulness they follow over 24 hours. A baby’s sleep cycle is generally shorter than the sleep cycle of an adult and this is partly because they have a smaller stomach. So when babies fall asleep after being fed, they wake up only after a short time as they start feeling hungry and need to be fed again.

Another interesting fact that I learned was that the sleep cycle of babies generally comprises four stages which include the following.

Stage One: In this stage, the babies start feeling drowsy and tend to gently drift off to sleep.

Stage Two: This stage is often referred to as REM sleep or active sleep phase. In this stage, the babies often make rapid eye movements, tend to move their mouth, arms, legs, and fingers slightly, and their breathing also increases.

Stage Three: This is the NREM stage or the light sleep phase where the babies become less active and their bodies become more relaxed.

Stage Four: This stage of the sleep cycle of babies is also known as deep non-REM sleep or quiet sleep. In this stage, the babies drift into a deep slumber, and waking them up is somewhat difficult. As the babies grow older, they start experiencing dreams in this stage.

Tips For Correcting The Sleep Schedule Of Babies

All this information helped me realize that my son was not following the right sleep schedule like other babies of his age. So I needed to rectify his schedule to avoid any negative impacts on his health and ensure his proper growth and development. Some effective tips I followed for the same include the following.

Study The Daytime Sleep Patterns

To start with I began to observe the daytime sleep patterns of my son carefully. I was surprised to learn that even though his daytime naps were not too long, he definitely slept more than 3-4 times during the day. I came to understand that his sleep was interrupted due to the noise in the house or because his diaper was too full  or he was feeling too hot or cold. To compensate for the loss of sleep due to these intrusions, he had to take multiple naps which interfered with his nighttime sleep schedule. So, once I resolved these issues, his daytime sleep pattern gradually returned to normal. 

Create A Safe Sleep Environment

I had learned through my research that sleeping close to a parent, especially their mother, makes the babies feel secure and helps to fall asleep more quickly. I ensured that my son felt comfortable and safe when he went off to sleep, especially at night. For this, I made him sleep with me on the bed for some time rather than trying to put him to sleep directly in his crib at night. I was nt sure that this tip would work but until I experienced the changes for myself.  I gently shifted my son to his crib only afer he fell into deep sleep and with this small change, his sleep duration and quality improved significantly.

Follow A Consistent Bedtime Routine

Like all new mothers my bedtime routine had gone for a toss after the birth of my son and it was gradually turning into a habit. But then, as a part of my effort to correct the sleep schedule of my son, I started to follow my old bedtime routine again. It was a simple routine where I  avoided staying up late, dimmed the lights of the bedroom 10 minutes before bedtime, changed into a nightdress and put on some light relaxing music. As I followed this routine consistently for a few days, I found that my son started getting drowsy around the same time and hence slept well.

Understand The Baby’s Needs

One important change that helped me improve the sleep schedule of my son was to avoid playing with him when he was showing signs of drowsiness. I think all new mothers want to cuddle their babies and play with them all the time, but since the babies sleep a lot, the fun time is limited. So I often ignored the fact that my son was feeling sleepy or his eyes were drooping simply to spend some more fun time with him. This naturally disrupted his sleep cycle and when I realized my mistake I stopped doing so immediately.

I hope that the above information can prove helpful for new parents trying to understand the sleep patterns of their little ones and setting a healthy sleep schedule for them.    

“This post is a part of Wellness Hour Blog Hop by Rakhi Jayashankar

‘This post is part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter’