Healthy Sleep Habits

by Hanna Doil, Thrive Parent Educator

Healthy sleep habits are important for all of us, especially for our young children. Sleep makes happy babies, and happy babies make happy parents. Babies under 1 year of age need approximately 11-12 hours of sleep, and toddlers need about 10-11.  That’s a lot of ZZ’s!

There are many reasons that a young child needs so many hours of rest. Adequate sleep helps your child in many ways. On the other end, inadequate amounts of sleep can actually be harmful to your child’s development.

Here are a few reasons your baby needs to snooze:

-Learning and Memory: Children who get enough sleep are able to learn and retain information at a faster rate compared to children who are tired.

-Immune System: Little bodies are able to fight off illnesses when well rested.

-Temperament: We can all relate to this… We feel happier when we have had enough sleep. Behavior problems in young children can often be linked to sleep deprivation.

-Healthy Lifestyle: Studies have shown that obesity in young children can be traced back to the lack of healthy sleep routines.

We know that healthy sleep impacts many areas of our young child’s development, but how do we help our child to sleep? Here are a few things to think about.

-Bedtime Routines: What does your child’s bedtime routine look like? Is it the same each night? Young children thrive off of routines and consistency.  If your child is not getting enough sleep at night, consider what is happening before you are putting your child to bed. Some healthy ideas for toddlers may include a quiet game, brushing teeth, and reading a book.  For babies it may include a diaper change, cuddle time, and singing. Whatever the routine is for you and your child, consistency each night is key. Sometimes a bedtime routine chart can be helpful.

-Unplug: Playing electronic games, or watching television can cause sleep disruption for adults and young children alike. Consider bedtime routines that don’t include electronics, such as reading a book.

-Environment: Is your child’s room dark enough? Are their pajamas comfortable? Is the room too hot or too cold? Do they prefer soothing sounds or no sounds at all? Environmental sleep factors are just as important for young children as they are for adults.

-Food: What type of snack is your child having before they go to bed? Snacks such as fruit can actually give young children a boost of energy. Consider snacks that combine protein and carbs such as toast and peanut butter, yogurt, or cheese.

Remember that each child is unique in their preferences and needs; however, healthy sleep habits are an important part of all of our lives. There will be times when sleep is difficult- try to consider what is happening around your child that may be contributing to those difficulties. Sometimes a change in routine or environment is needed, or your child may just be going through a growth change. And don’t forget… You need sleep too!

Hanna Doil holds a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Development and Education and serves as the Parent Educator at Thrive. For more information on Thrive’s services for all families, visit www.allthrive.org or call 406-587-3840.