Today we are going to talk about why your baby needs sleep – not how to get them there. You’ve read the advice…
Swaddle, but not for too long or baby will become dependent.
Sleep train, oh wait, but that’s cruel.
Don’t let them sleep in a car seat or swing, but if they can’t fall asleep, it might be helpful.
To each his or her own. I’m taking my hat out of that arena for now.
Today I want to help you understand WHY your child needs to sleep (getting them there can be your own special concoction of tricks).
After doing some serious research, here are the top 5 reasons that I am even more committed to the cause:
Reason #1: Brainpower
A number of studies including this one and this one have shown that babies who sleep better (particularly at night) have higher cognitive scores. This is particularly related to the formation and consolidation of memories.
- When infants are awake they quickly forget names they have just learned (try teaching them something to prove this)
- During sleep, the brain retrieves and re-lives recent experiences and integrates them into the existing memory. This is done by strengthening neural pathways, re-linking and sometimes undoing ones that are no longer relevant. The sleeping brain essentially transforms experience into knowledge
I saw this so clearly when my son was 14 months old his talking really started to take off. Every time I put him down to sleep, as his eyes closed his sweet lips would start recounting out loud the new words he had learned that day “birdie…ball…auntie….apple…bir…” ZONK. it was all so involuntary and precious.
Reason #2: Better Temperament
Babies who sleep more and better at night have been found here to have “easier” temperaments – they are more approachable (read: more shareable, less always-in-your-arms), less distractible (greater focus) and more adaptable (as in, better chance of sleeping soundly through the night at Great-Aunt-Gertrude’s, too). Enough said.
Reason #3: Physical Growth
A child grows more rapidly during his first 12 months of life than any other period – tripling his birth weight and growing between 8 and 10 inches. Research shows that almost 80% of human growth factor is released as their itty-bitty-bodies sleep. Sleep baby, sleep.
Reason #4: Motor Skill Development
Not only cognitive skills are up for grabs during baby’s apparent power outage – but a lack of sleep at night can also affect motor skills and their ability to focus making accidents and behavioural problems more likely during the day.
Reason #5: Immune Function
Firstly, our T-cells go down if we are sleep deprived (these are the ones that attack, kill and quarantine the bad bugs in our body). Secondly, inflammatory cytokines increase when the body lacks sleep (this makes us more prone to illness). Thirdly, while the body sleeps, physical energy demands drop off, and the body is much more efficient at fighting illness.
The moral of this story is:
Let sleeping babies lie. And help lying babies sleep.
The rug-rat is regenerating itself.
A final point that is by no means an afterthought….
Your little Twinkie’s trip to twinkle town is an important part of maintaining your sanity.
Because without enough sleep, we all become towering two-year-olds.