Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

As its Festival of Sleep Day this Friday we share with our top tips by Keren’s nursery, our expert contributor on good sleep routine which is important for big and little ones.

A good sound sleep is as important to young toddlers and babies as quality nutrition and sufficient exercise. As food provides children’s body with necessary nutrients to sustain their growing bodies, so too their body and mind requires sufficient sleep in order to repackage neurotransmitters, which are chemicals necessary to enable brain cells to communicate.

In his book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Marc Weissbluth, MD, provides these insightful comments on the functions of sleep:

“Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm. Every night and at every nap, sleep recharges the brain’s battery. Sleeping well increases brainpower just as weight lifting builds stronger muscles, because sleeping well increases your attention span and allows you to be physically relaxed and mentally alert at the same time. Then you are at your personal best.”

Therefore, it is important to know that meeting those sleep needs supports children’s learning, growth and development. This is an important fact to know and act upon whether you are a mother to a young child or an Early Years Practitioner caring for a child in a nursery.

Children who are well rested are better able to concentrate, take on new information, interact positively with their peers, and deal with conflict and challenges. During sleep, learning is strengthened, and biological changes occur that help children to grow, develop and stay healthy.

We have witnessed, at the nursery level that in cases where children, for various reasons, had poor quality or insufficient sleep, have been less able to regulate their emotions and behaviour, had difficulty concentrating, and were more prone and at a higher risk of accidents, injury and illnesses.

The amount of sleep children are recommended to have, during the day and night, varies with age. The NHS recommends the following levels of sleep for young children; it should be noted that children are different and may require slightly less or more sleep:

Children up to 12 months old require 2.5 hours of sleep during the day and 11 hours during the night. Children aged 2 need 1.5 hours of sleep during the day and 11.5 hours during the night. Children aged 3 need only 45 minutes of sleep during the day and 11.5 during the night and children aged 4 do not require any sleep during the day but still need 11.5 hours of night sleep.

It is important to respect the individual child’s needs who may not be ready to sleep when the parent plans for them to sleep. Therefore it is important to respond and acknowledge the individual sleep needs. The child’s readiness for sleep depends on a range of factors including their own individual ‘body clock’, when they get up in the morning, and the regularity of their daily lives. Babies and toddlers are not always able to tell us when they need sleep, so it is important to look for and respond to sleep cues. Some common cues that babies and toddlers may give to indicate sleepiness include: limited ability to regulate ones emotions (irritant or grumpy), lack of willingness to engage in activities, seeking adult comfort such as cuddles, yawning and eye rubbing.

Beyond the need to provide children and toddlers with sufficient time to sleep, it is vital to provide them with the suitable space, environment and atmosphere in which to sleep. This will have a fundamental impact on the quality and effectiveness of their sleep.

Other factors to take into consideration when planning children’s sleep time and place include the following:

  • Children need to feel safe and secure in order to be able to fully relax and allow their body to reach the sleeping stage.
  • Do not expect children to fall asleep minutes after a very physically engaging activity.
  • Consistency and routine are very important for young children. It is vital that the sleep routine and time is repetitive.
  • The sleeping area needs to be relatively quiet (possibly with soft music playing).
  • The sleeping area needs to have a comfortable temperature of more or less 21 degrees depending on the season.
  • The sleeping area needs to have access for fresh air to prevent stuffiness.

As parents, it is our responsibility to be protect our children’s sleep, just as we do their safety, just as we ensure that they regularly get their meals. We are the ones that create their sleep habits and patterns after they are born so it is important to adopt healthy and correct habits as it is much easier to instil good habits from the start than correcting bad ones later on.

Following and adopting a healthy sleep regime with your child will benefit not only your child but all the family as a unit allowing you time to provide much needed attention to your other children and maintain a healthier more sustainable relationship between parents who will be less exhausted and enjoy their own quality times during the evenings.

Good luck and sweet dreams!

For more information on Keren’s nursery, check their website here.