While we all understand the importance of food to the body, we fail to realise that sleep is more important, and is an essential part of human development. In fact, it is possible to go days without food, but just try going three or four nights in a row without sleep and you just might start hallucinating. Yes! That’s how dangerous lack of sleep is.
Now, as a parent, when you’ve not had enough consolidated sleep, consecutively for say three days, how do you feel? Tired, cranky, exhausted, unproductive—the list is exhaustive. The same can be said for kids. Imagine what your children go through each day when they are not having enough sleep, especially four-month-olds and above.
Benefits of good consolidated sleep
- They are more alert at school, and easily grasp and comprehend things. Yes, children tend to be forgetful because, of course, they are kids. But their attention span and comprehension is better when they have slept properly.
- Increase in concentration level is also noticeably better.
- They are physically and emotionally healthy, as the brain repairs and recovery takes place during consolidated sleep period.
- The growth hormone in children is developed adequately during sleep.
- Mummy time becomes possible. I mean, imagine putting your feet up after a long day, with a glass of wine while reading a book, watching your favourite TV show or catching up on BellaNaija. Of course, your child must be fast asleep for you to truly enjoy it.
- Extra bonding time with your partner. Now, for me this is just the icing on the cake! Who doesn’t love bonding time with zero interruption from your little one.
Some of the things holding us back include:
Co-sleeping with your child
While this may be seen as bonding in the beginning, it is a long term recipe for disaster, because you’ll never be able to get enough sleep.
Guilt as a working parent
You know those times you tell yourself you’re just going to bond with your child, but really you’re just bonding with your phone after a long day.
Sometimes, we are just so impatient to put the child to sleep. You just don’t want to stop what you’re doing at the expense of your child’s health.
Easily give in to your child
Your child wants to continue watching cartoons till 11 PM, and you agree so he/she doesn’t cry or disturb your peace. This is wrong whichever way you look at it. Who is the parent, who is the child?
5 signs to know your child’s sleep pattern needs to be improved:
- Your child throws too many unnecessary tantrums. We sometimes wrongfully assume that it is “normal” for kids to throw tantrums, but it really isn’t.
- Your child cries too much, especially in the mornings.
- If you have to wake the child up in the mornings, and the child is refusing to wake up or sleepy till he or she is ready for school.
- You are in and out of hospital many days, except your child has a form of health challenge.
- You aren’t as productive as you should be as a mum.
Creating a sleep pattern for your child needs consistency and a realistic sleep routine. When you are having a bit of challenge creating a consolidated sleep pattern for your child, as a child psychologist who is also a sleep consultant, I just advise parents to sleep train the child.
Sleep training is basically a process of helping a baby learn to sleep well, teaching your child how to sleep independently without help like rocking, backing, nursing, carrying, etc., which usually adds to your stress as a parent.
Children need, depending on their ages, an average of about ten to fourteen hours of consolidated (uninterrupted) sleep every day, while newborns need about fourteen to sixteen hours. I hear some mums say, I wasn’t sleep trained or taught to sleep and I grew up great, why should I teach my child to sleep? But what we forget as parents is that life sleep trained us.
Remember in those days there were no gadgets, DSTV, YouTube, unlimited access to internet. Children’s TV stations closed 7 PM. Your parents went to bed after the 10 PM news. There was no generator and when power went off, everyone retired to bed. So we were sleeping well and having uninterrupted sleep.
Fast forward to this digital age with everything 24 hours. 24 hours access to the internet, generator, TV, phones, etc. This lifestyle is greatly affecting our sleep pattern, thus affecting the quality of our sleep and health.
That is why it’s necessary to help your child develop a great sleep pattern now. Imagine their lives ten years down the line if nothing is done now in this digital age.
If your child isn’t having enough sleep, or you as a mum aren’t, you’re harming both of you. Is this what you really want? Or would you like to do something about it today? Think about it.