Interestingly this also often induces night awakenings. Now you have a situation where they are so pumped up they cannot easily fall asleep. In his book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Weissbluth states: "Sleep problems not only disrupt a child's nights -- they disrupt his days, too, by making him less mentally alert, more inattentive, unable to concentrate, and easily distracted. Being optimally alert is the state in which we are most receptive to and interactive with our environment, when we have the greatest attention span and can learn the most. These rhythms are irregular in the first few months of a child's life, but gradually become more regular and develop with maturity. ii U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health… As a matter of fact, we often don't think much of it, and that is the problem. Sleep is just as important to your children's development and well-being as nutrition and physical activity. Older children often end up depending on their parents’ presence to fall asleep and might be reluctant to sleep solo. This ebb and flow, the fluctuations in alertness, all happen as part of our natural daily biological rhythms. We also need to understand the role sleep plays in being alert or drowsy, stressed or relaxed, and how that in turn may affect temperament, learning, and social behavior. You might also find yourself needing to go to bed earlier than you normally might -- or taking impromptu naps -- if your child refuses to fall asleep without you in the bed. After all, parenting advice is largely based on opinion and rarely takes into account the individual child it is meant to control. SOURCES: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, A Step-By-Step Just when parents feel that sleeping through the night is a far-off dream, their baby usually begins to sleep longer stretches at night. PhD, 1997. Other families end up co-sleeping out of desperation when their kids wake frequently during the night or refuse to sleep alone. Sometimes even 15-20 minutes earlier may have a significant impact and be all that is needed. In sync: We wake; we are alert; we become drowsy; we sleep. Sleep, along with diet and exercise, is fundamental to a child's emotional and physical well-being. ... out there – I know, a debated subject – there are plenty of illnesses that there is no protection from. They also make him more physically impulsive, hyperactive, or lazy.". It all adds up, with consequences that may last a lifetime. Medically updated Oct. 21, 2004. We go over some of the problems parents are facing and some common and highly researched solutions. It's certainly not something we do on purpose. We have all experienced varying degrees of being awake, from groggy to alert to hyper-alert. Co-sleeping infants rarely wake up during the night, says pediatrician and bestselling author Dr. Bill Sears, whereas those who sleep alone tend to startle and cry frequently. You can see this in a child who is calm and attentive, pleasant, with wide eyes looking around, absorbing everything, one who socially interacts with ease. When sleep (naps and nighttime) is in sync with these rhythms, it is most effective, most restorative. As a pediatric sleep researcher, I’ve grappled with the question of why these sleep problems in children happen. Other families end up co-sleeping out of desperation when their … That is, they try to remain awake and alert. Common sleep associations are a special toy to cuddle, a dummy or parent who stays with the child until they fall asleep. Most co-sleeping arrangements come to an end at one point or another, whether by parental choice or that of the child. Children with higher IQs -- in every age group studied -- slept longer. If you co-sleep, you are less likely to indulge in the toxic lifestyle knowing that you are about to jump in bed with your child. Missing naps or going to bed a little late may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Following are some observations from various studies illustrating some of the difficulties faced and the behavioral changes in children with sleep problems (from Wiessbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and On Becoming Baby Wise, by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam, MD): As parents, it is our responsibility to be sensitive to and protect our children's sleep, just as we do their safety, just as we ensure that they regularly get breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Remove all fluffy pillows and heavy comforters from the bed. And for a child, simply being awake a certain amount of time is over-stimulating and fatiguing, even if they are not engaged in any activity at all. Once you feel that he is ready to sleep alone, you must help him to separate from you with sensitivity , reaffirming his ability to sleep alone in his own space while also making him understand why it is important to become independent . Sleep disturbances, for whatever reason, have significant and often serious consequences. Before establishing a family bed, spouses should sit down together and decide whether the benefits of co-sleeping outweigh its possible risks and disadvantages. Originally published June 2, 2003. Naps are also quite different from night sleep. How much your child needs to sleep can vary depending on his individual needs. When a child wakes in the night (we all wake around two or three times each night naturally) and finds the sleep association is no longer there, they are more likely to become fully awake and need help to go back to sleep. 1998. And you just might get some more sleep yourself. Sleep Is a Requirement for a Healthy Brain. Learning to wait in bed when something awakens a child during the night such as a nightmare is a major developmental accomplishment. In short, drunks and drug addicts roll over on their kids. But as many parents can attest, ensuring their kid gets adequate slumber is easier said than done. Working parents might establish a family bed so they can enjoy some peaceful hours with their children. Putting them to bed earlier is actually the remedy. We are primarily responsible for their sleep habits so it is important to start healthy ones early; it is much easier to instill good habits than correct bad ones. Footnotes for “Sleep Is Important To Your Child’s Health” i Koulouglioti, C., Cole, R., and Kitzman, H. Inadequate Sleep and Unitentional Injuries in Young Children. Sleeping is one of the most pleasurable physiological experiences that a human being can have.Besides the pleasure that a good sleep gives us, sleep is essential for conserving energy, strengthening our bodies and learning new information, as well as improving the immune and endocrine systems. 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. Supporters of co-sleeping say that it makes breastfeeding easier, strengthens the bond between parent and child and improves sleep quality for all members of the family.