As parents, we’re always concerned about our child’s growth and development. Is he gaining enough weight, what age should she be rolling by, how much should I feed, are all common concerns! Nutrition and exercise are top of mind when it comes to key factors in helping your child grow and develop. However, sleep is equally important, and is actually much more critical than most of us are aware. Let’s look at why.
The power of night sleep
When children sleep, their body goes through different restorative processes throughout the night. Some physical and some mental, depending on if the child is in deeper or lighter sleep. Deep sleep is the phase of sleep that happens at the start of night sleep, and it’s at this time that the body is focused on physical growth and restoration. The brain’s pituitary gland releases growth hormone throughout the day. However, the largest amount of growth hormone is released during the first phase of night sleep (deep sleep). This release makes up 48%* of your child’s entire days’ worth of growth hormone release.
How to ensure our children are getting this restorative sleep
Children enter deep sleep at the beginning of their night sleep, but a bedtime that is too late will shorten that sleep phase. This is because after 4 months of age, many of the body’s systems are governed by the Circadian Rhythm. For example, the release of our daily wake/sleep hormones are dictated by our Circadian Rhythm. Daylight influences our Circadian Rhythm and therefore clock time becomes very important to follow for our best sleep. Children get the most amount of deep sleep before midnight. This is why an earlier bedtime is so critical to the health and wellbeing of a child.
Not getting enough deep sleep has many impacts
Children who don’t get enough deep sleep, often experience multiple night wakes and wake up very early for the day. This creates greater sleep debt, and more difficulty taking naps throughout the day. It also impacts attention, learning, and the regulation of emotions. The lack of restorative sleep can have an impact on other hormones as well, that regulate appetite and metabolism. A general lack of sleep also affects motor skills and coordination. Most kiddos need more sleep than their parents think, and a late bedtime is usually the culprit.
Pro Sleep Tip for Toddlers! Reframe how you talk about sleep.
Have a toddler who isn’t a fan of sleep? When we start to frame up sleep as a positive, exciting, and powerful thing, toddlers really take notice and come on board with us. This can easily be done by attributing an activity to sleep. For example “Wow you ran so fast, must be that great nap you had today!”. The families we’ve coached through to toddler sleep success report really healthy sleep associations with activities their children enjoy. Because when you present sleep like a super power and make it part of everyday life, rather than just bedtime, it’s a game changer that’ll carry through into adulthood.
Healthy food, healthy sleep
We all know that healthy food is better for us and our children. The same goes for sleep, especially when looking at growth and development. That’s why a holistic approach is best! It puts both nutrition and sleep at the same level of importance, so they can work hand in hand. Prioritizing sleep will help ensure your child is growing and developing at their best.