You can’t protect your children from everything, but on the ‘easy’ things that you can help them with, why wouldn’t you? Well, you can enhance your child’s brain development, mood, behavior, attention span, and general disposition – not just now, but throughout the duration of their life.
THAT is how important PROPER SLEEP is.
Of course, I’m not saying it’s always about bad parenting, by any means, and I hope that’s not what you take out of this post. Often times people aren’t aware of the problem or don’t know how to ‘fix it’.
That being said, I see so many pictures of babies asleep in the floor, or high chair, or some other obscure place because they became so exhausted that they fell asleep there, and then parents think its funny…? I don’t get that, but to each their own. However, remember YOU are your child’s advocate – YOU are the one with the power to teach them.
Before reading this, you might want to determine how much sleep your baby actually needs. Also, take a look at your baby’s bedtime – does it need adjusting? Your circadian rhythm is different depending on your age; baby’s and young children need to sleep more in the early evenings because their body’s release melatonin at this time.
Your baby’s body produces melatonin at specific intervals base on their age. They need to learn to self-soothe and be put to bed at these times every day. If this doesn’t happen, their body will begin to produce a stress hormone which will keep them awake and make it very hard to calm down to sleep. Bed time, total sleep time, room ambiance, and sleep schedule have a lot to do with a baby’s sleep patterns and general dispostion.
Negative Affects of Lack of Sleep
These can last a lifetime, or until a person learns proper sleep techniques, and these are just a few of the many negative affects that lack of sleep can have on a person’s body:
- Decreased cognitive development
- Developmental Delay
- Behavioral Changes
- Inability to Self-Soothe
- Attention Disorders (such as ADD or ADHD, for example)
What Happens When your Baby gets Tired?
When our body’s get tired, our brain tells our body to release melatonin and to prepare for sleep. This is also release periodically throughout the 24-hour-day, at appropriate times to sleep. For example, your body should release melatonin when your eyes see darkness for a long period of time (this is the reason it’s a GREAT IDEA to have black-out shades in your baby’s room).
When a baby becomes tired you will begin to notice their Sleep Cues. These may be different from child to child, but many will be similar:
- Becoming increasingly fussy
- Staring off or Zoning out
- Rubbing their Eyes
- Decreased Activity & Movement
When you notice these signs, it’s time for your baby to begin a sleepy-time routine and go to bed very soon. (If you want to get on a schedule so you can more easily predict this time, click here).
What Happens When your Baby doesn’t get to bed in time and becomes over-tired?
When your body see light, it typically produces the hormone cortisol (which is a stress hormone) that tells your body that it’s time to be awake.
The body also produces cortisol when you attempt to stay awake after your body has prepared for sleep by producing melatonin. THIS is the reason that it’s VERY important to put your baby to sleep at the appropriate time, once their body has produce melatonin. If you wait and you miss this window then their little bodies will begin to produce cortisol, causing them to stay awake and alert and disabling them from falling asleep.
Some things that cause over-tiredness in babies:
- Over stimulation at bedtime
- Ignoring recommended bedtime or nap time guidelines
- Skipping necessary naps
- Too late of a bed time
Once this happens, you have to help calm them down and get to the point where their body can start producing melatonin. Here are some suggestions:
- Go to a dark room
- Keep their room cool (68-72 degrees F)
- Play soft music or use a white noise sound machine (I prefer white noise)
- Create a comfortable atmosphere
- Swaddle your baby, depending on their age and preference
- Go through your sleepy-time routine (reading a story, singing a song, etc.)
An almost absolute way to insure that your baby does not suffer from over-tiredness (and in turn, you do not suffer!) follow your baby’s cues and get him or her on a sleep schedule. This will make your life easier and will make your baby happier and healthier with better sleep habits.
National Heart, Lung, & Blood Institute