Sleep is a crucial part of everyone’s life. But the importance of sleep in early childhood is invaluable. Children are exposed to a number of stimuli every day. Exercise, social involvement, education – they all fill up their developing brains with multitudes of information. Without sleep, the brain, which is constantly bombarded with an influx of new information, would wear itself out fast.
Neglecting sleep in early childhood can affect growth and development
Even though the exact mechanisms behind sleep aren’t fully known to the scientists, it’s easy to observe the consequences of the lack of sleep.
But sleep is especially important in early childhood. Sleep is responsible for the well-being of both the developing brain and the body. When children sleep, their muscles, cells, and tissues regenerate and the chemicals in the brain recalibrate.
Lack of sleep in childhood is linked to obesity and other physical health problems
However, the list of problems the lack of sleep generates in children is much, much longer. For example, there are studies that found a connection between sleep and obesity. The less children sleep and the more disturbed their circadian cycle of sleep, the higher the chance of their elevated BMI levels. Still, obesity in children is only the tip of the iceberg.
Sleep affects children’s brains and emotional behaviour
When we suffer a rough or sleepless night, we are all the same. Adults, children, and teenagers turn cranky and their performance becomes heavily impaired.
Insufficient amount of sleep is suspected to affect children’s cognitive and emotional behaviour (see link above). Children can become irritable and have attention deficiencies during the day. Their problem-solving abilities and emotional management can be impacted, too. Frequent mood swings and decreased thought organization are also among the issues the lack of sleep in early childhood sets off.
Even one hour of sleep less a night can have significant consequences for children. In fact, it could have a lifelong effect on a child, when school activities are involved. In a study made by Science Medicine Review, it was discovered that children with lower grades at school were sleeping, on average, 25 to 30 minutes less than students who had better grades. But not only that, even their ability to play sports, or fight infections was affected.
How long should children sleep in early childhood?
Now that we know about the importance of sleep in early childhood, let’s take a look at the duration of sleep for children of various ages. Preschool-aged children need to sleep as many as 10 to 12 hours a day with naps throughout the day. Sleeping time decreases significantly with age, with school children needing more or less 9 hours a day and adults between 7 and 8.
Children not getting enough sleep in early childhood can suffer from various impairments during their teenage years, adolescence, and even adulthood. To ensure the wellbeing of their children, parents should keep a keen eye on the amount and quality of sleep their children get every night, all week long.