Have you ever wished you had a better parent-child relationship? Did you know you can improve the quality of your relationship with your child by ensuring they get enough sleep? That’s right, you can improve your relationship and more just by improving sleep!
When your child is regularly getting the sleep they need, they are more likely to be cooperative, cheerful, and responsive. Yes, it’s true, they are happier, and any separation anxiety they may have significantly reduces. In turn, you’ll experience less conflict and frustration with your child. That’s got to be a win-win.
But it’s not just a higher happiness score your family will benefit from. Prioritising your little ones’ sleep and taking steps to improve their sleep habits, will also improve the following:
Sleep is crucial for the development of your baby or child’s brain. During sleep, the brain both processes and consolidates information from wake times. Thus, helping to create new neural connections and pathways. And that leads to better retention of learned skills and abilities. This doesn’t just apply to nighttime sleep either. Babies who take regular daytime naps show an increased ability to recall language, develop skills, and think creatively over those who don’t. 
Immune System Function
Sleep helps to boost the immune system. Helping children (and adults) fight off infection and illness. How does it do this? Well, keeping it simple, your body produces and releases various types of immune cells such as cytokines, T-cells, and natural killer (NK) cells during sleep. These cells are responsible for identifying and targeting pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria, and initiating an immune response to eliminate them. Adequate sleep ensures that your baby’s system is properly loaded with these essential immune cells to fight off infections.
Not surprisingly, sleep is also essential for physical growth. Those of you who have worked with me may be nodding your head here, as you’ve seen it for yourselves! During sleep, the body produces growth hormone, (hGH) which stimulates tissue growth and repair. Even though your sleeping baby’s body appears relaxed, there’s a whole lot going on inside! Cells in the cartilage called chondrocytes and cells in bones called osteoblasts receive signals from hGH to increase replication, which is a fancy way of explaining how bones grow longer, thicker, and stronger.
And of course, enough sleep is critical for emotional well-being. Babies and children who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to experience mood swings, irritability, and have difficulty regulating their emotions. It’s not uncommon for parents to come to me with stories of how anxious and nervous their child is. But within a week or so of improving sleep, they can see the positive effect it has on emotional wellbeing. According to Dr. Dean Beebe, director of the neuropsychology program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, “Inadequate sleep causes children to have problems regulating the ups and downs in their moods, leading to wider and more rapid reactions to relatively minor events. Children who don’t get enough sleep also don’t pay attention as well, are less likely to think before they act, and don’t seem able to solve problems as well.”
If you can relate, better sleep may just be the solution you’re looking for!
We all want happy children who listen…
I don’t think I’m overstating the case when I say that a happier, more well-behaved child is something we’re all striving towards, am I right? And while it may not be “perfect”, we are dealing with little humans who have ups and downs and bad days. If you’re dealing with a clingy mess who changes moods in the blink of an eye – chances are they could do better with more sleep.
So, now we’re on the same page, and it’s nice to know the benefit of sleep, how can you actually help your baby or child get more of it?
Helping your baby or child get more sleep
If you read my blog even semi-regularly, the five steps below won’t come as a surprise to you. But for the uninitiated among you, here are five of the biggest changes you can make to help your child (aged over 6 months) get the sleep they need. Try them tonight:
- Establish a predictable bedtime routine that includes relaxing activities such as reading or listening to music.
- Set a regular bedtime and wake-up time, even on weekends.
- Create a sleep-friendly environment by ensuring that your baby’s room is cool, dark, and quiet (White noise machines being a notable exception).
- Avoid screens (TV, tablets, smartphones) before bedtime, as they can interfere with sleep.
- Encourage your child to engage in outside physical activity during the day, as this can help them fall asleep more easily at night.
Happy sleeping everyone! I know that most of you aren’t as obsessed with the subject of sleep as I am. But I’m grateful that you’ve taken the time to learn a little more about what makes sleep so important, and how you can help your child get as much as they need. If I’ve helped you accomplish that, then I feel like I’ve done my part.
If sleep is still proving elusive after these tips, then please reach out. Sleep can be complex, but help is at hand! Book a free initial call and we can talk through what’s happening in your family. During these calls, I’ll see if I can give you some quick pointers in addition to this blog, and we can discuss if working together one-on-one makes sense.
Because you and your child are worth it! Happy family’s matter!