By Sunette Joubert
Busting the myth:
How often have you come across parents that argue it is best to keep a baby up during the day, as it makes for better sleep at night?
Well, this is certainly one myth that is worth busting. As a matter of fact, the exact opposite is true. Sleep begets sleep and a baby that is not sleeping during the day will probably struggle to fall asleep at night or will not have good quality sleep during the night.
The smaller your baby, the more sleep he or she would need during the day and it is suggested that newborns should for between 6 and 9 hours per day. As your baby grows older, the need for daytime sleep gradually becomes less and it is only at the age of 2.5 years that a select few toddlers are ready to drop their daytime sleep (and even then, some quiet time is recommended). Naturally, children differ, and some toddlers may even have to take naps until they are 5 years old.
What happens to an over-tired baby?
Not letting your child get enough sleep during the day will cause over-tiredness and this makes for a child that is cranky and fussy. Normally, these babies feed badly as well.
An over-tired child becomes so physically exhausted that the child’s body triggers a stress response. Cortisol is produced and the baby goes into “fight or flight” mode. This then makes it tremendously difficult to get the child to sleep at bedtime, which causes them to become more over-tired.
In addition to this, daytime sleep is supposed to count towards the daily quota of sleep that a child needs. There are only so many hours in a night and getting enough sleep in each 24-hour window is crucial for your child’s healthy development.
The benefits of good sleep for a child include, but is not limited to:
- Improved attention
- Overall improved mental and physical health
- Improved behaviour
- Improved learning
A lack of proper sleep for your little one could cause diseases such as high blood pressure, obesity, depression, heart illnesses and other illnesses.
The A, B, C’s of improving daytime sleep:
A) First, it is important to take note that babies have age-appropriate awake times. A newborn, for example, should only be awake for approximately 45 minutes between naps, whereas an 8-month-old can go with about 3 hours’ awake time. Know what the appropriate awake time for your baby’s age is and stick to it to prevent over-tiredness. Also, be sure to watch out for cues that your baby is becoming tired.
B) Create an ideal sleeping environment for your child to make naps easier for them. Babies sleep best in darkened rooms, with regulated temperatures that are neither too hot or too cold.
C) Take some time to wind down before naptime. Do a calming activity with your child.
D) Blank out noises that may be disturbing. White noise is an excellent tool, as it is also soothing to a baby.
E) Make sure your baby’s nutritional needs are met. A well-fed baby sleeps much better.
F) Make sure that smaller babies are properly winded, to avoid discomfort while sleeping.
G) When the time is right, teach your baby self-soothing skills, as this helps them to link sleep cycles and achieve the required, longer naps.