Sleep is a necessity, not a luxury

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By Jolandi Becker – MD Good Night

Often parents feel guilty about the need to want their babies or children to sleep. “Why can’t I wake up so many times for my baby if they need that?” 

While the fact remains that inevitably there is a time during the newborn phase where you will have to get up to feed your little one, there is a time for your baby to start sleeping better. This “time to start sleeping better” is not only directed by the mom’s wishes (of course this is a nice added benefit); it is a necessary step for the development of your little one.

Just think of yourself and how you feel when your baby wakes up three times a night? What makes you think your baby does not feel the same? While they’re still cuter and look better than what we do, due to their youth, they too struggle after poor sleep.  In fact, they are probably worse off, as they need almost double the amount of sleep than we need.

Let’s look at some reasons why sleep is a necessity for your little one:

  1. The first and most obvious reason is that you and your baby will be in a better mood.  Moms have noted the significant impact on how they perceive their babies when both parties have been sleeping well.  Babies have a better temperament, are more approachable and are generally less likely to be cranky and crying the whole day after having in a good night’s sleep. Similarly, well-rested toddlers are more able to control their emotions and think before throwing a tantrum.

  2. Children grow when they sleep!  The growth hormone is mainly secreted during deep sleep.  Parents can also often observe and see growth and learning taking place during sleep as babies are quite active while sleeping.  An interesting thought is that generally, babies spend so much time sleeping, so where will they find the time to learn how to walk and talk if they did not practice it in their sleep?

  3. Sleep can influence your child’s weight. More studies indicate that a lack of sleep is linked to obesity.  Weight problems, in turn, can lead to heart problems.  I have seen the effects of ill-sleep in different ways.  An example is when toddlers start eating better when the night milk feedings are cut out, because these are no longer essential. Similarly, well-rested babies start eating and drinking better when they have sufficient energy to do so.

  4. Better sleep protects us against getting sick.  During sleep, our body produces proteins called cytokines, which the body depends on to combat infection, illness, and stress. Even as adults we are more irritable and prone to stress and illness when we do not get a good night’s sleep.

  5. Sleep helps with better attention span and increases learning. Interestingly, attention problems such as ADHD and lack of sleep have very similar symptoms.  In recent years, sleep analysis forms a very integral part of diagnosing ADHD and related conditions.  With better attention comes better memory retention and assists with learning.

  6. Sleep lowers the risk of injury, even when assessing adults.  Pilots have to sign documentation to show that they have slept eight hours before operating a plane.  Children, too, are clumsier and make more mistakes with their movements if they are not well-rested. 

The benefits of sleeping well go far beyond just feeling better.  Parents should know that sleep is not a luxury and it is not something they should feel guilty about wanting; it is a necessity for their little ones to grow up healthy.