Why Is Sleep Important?
Latest update: September 20, 2018
Author: Heidi Holvoet, PhD
Why is sleep
important? Because it makes you happy,
That's how I answered my son's question the other day.
And it's true, the
benefits are basic and felt in our everyday lives, from
newborn through adulthood.
Why is sleep important for your baby?
courtesy of a4gpa
It's no secret how important it is is for babies.
As a parent you know how happy
and sweet a baby can be after a good rest - and how
cranky and fussy when tired ...
And if she is well rested, you benefit too: you get more rest, which makes you feel better
and keeps you healthy. And that in turn has an important positive
effect on your child(ren).
But there are even more
- Hard work is done in a newborn's brain, and
proper brain development
requires enough and good quality sleep.
- When sleeping, a baby
most of the time. Researchers found that dreaming stimulates baby's
and so assists in its healthy development.
- The first half year is crucial
for developing good sleeping skills. It's
in these early months that baby's
sleep patterns mature most quickly and
the stage is set for the years to come.
sleep in infancy has been linked to obesity, as a child
and as an adult.
- Good sleep as a child also decreases
the chance for general
health problems and emotional difficulties like
depression and anxiety.
- A child who is not overtired, will settle much
easier and have better
nights as well.
If your baby is not sleeping well ...
Does that mean your child is doomed to be unhealthy and unhappy? No, of
course not. What we as parents call "not
sleeping well" is often just fine for an infant.
She may not be taking any naps at all or may not be sleeping through
the night at 6 or at 18 months. But that can still be just fine
for her and give her enough good quality rest.
What is important is that we give her the
right support to
go through that all important development in the
first half year.
How? By guiding in a
loving and determined way.
Loving means with enough
attention for her needs and natural patterns.
And without forcing her unnaturally
(like overfeeding or certain medical sleep aids).
means you don't necessarily give her all the freedom: you choose where
and how she sleeps, when you put her to bed, when is play time and when
is quiet time ...
That gives your baby the safe
and consistent environment to develop her sleeping at best.
problems and sleeping
through the night pages offer ideas and tools to get started.
If YOU are tired ...
Besides being tired and sleepy, the first effect of
sleep deprivation is nearly always emotional: we feel down, low
on energy and without much confidence in what we do.
It's good to realize this and to think about it when you feel depressed
after many broken nights with your baby. It's only the lack of sufficient rest
doing this - it's
not you not being strong enough or not trying hard enough.
by catching up on rest as much as you can. A quick nap, an early night
or even an hour or so between the last day and first night feed can
work wonders. You may find a couple of simple relaxation
techniques helpful too.
do not hesitate to ask your partner, family or friends to help you from
time to time, for example with babysitting while you nap. If you would
like support you can also contact
me, I'm always happy to advise.
The answer to the Why
Is Sleep Important? question is in all of the above.
The best tip I can give is to keep the importance in
the back of your mind, but do not over-emphasize. Simple as it may seem, keeping a
attitude will help both you and your little one get more rest.
Sleep and physical growth in
infants during the first 6 months Tikotzky L, De Marcas G, Har-Toov J. et al. - Journal of Sleep Research,
2009. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2869.2009.00772.x.