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5 Reasons You Should Establish Healthy Sleep Habits: By Valerie Plowman
While we all want to have babies and children who sleep well, when it comes down to it, it takes a lot of work to get there. Many people start on the path to work toward great sleep habits, but soon stop because of the effort involved. Establishing sleep habits does take some effort and sacrifice. You will not likely put in a bit of effort and immediately have the results you are looking for.
In those moments, when things aren’t going according to plan, you need a reminder and big picture review to keep you pushing forward on your quest for healthy sleep habits. The effort pays off! It is worth it! I have four children who now range from ages 6-13. I can’t tell you how many times I have thought, “I am so glad we put in the work to have good sleepers.”
I have never regretted it. I have never wished we didn’t do that. I have always been happy we did. Here are five reasons to push through and aim for great sleep.
Before we delve into the reasons to have great sleep habits, I want to offer a word of encouragement. First, it is okay for your child to at times not get optimal sleep. It is okay to every once in a while stay out late at a family party or to skip nap for a social function. You just don’t want to make it a habit.
When you do miss sleep for whatever reason, know the signs of an overstimulated baby or toddler. See my posts on the topic for help: How to Calm Your Overstimulated Baby and Overstimulation for Toddlers.
1-Optimal Sleep Leads to Optimal Learning
When you are tired, it is harder to focus on things. When you are well-rested, you can really focus and get things done. When babies and children are well-rested, they can really focus in on the world around them and take advantage of every learning opportunity.
Many people worry that their baby, who sleeps so well, is sleeping too much to be able to learn all they need to learn. That concern can seem legitimate! My four children all slept a lot in comparison to the average baby. Even my lowest sleep needs baby slept more than most people think babies should sleep in a day. My children are all very intelligent and thrive in school! They have all always gotten the highest grades.
Once you have a child in school, you notice how often teachers implore you to make sure your child gets a good night’s rest before a big test. They ask for that because they see that sleep makes a positive difference in the performance of children.
Your baby, toddler, child, and teenager will all learn best when sleep is what it should be.
Weissbluth, author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, says, “I believe that healthy naps lead to optimal daytime alertness for learning–that is, naps adjust the alert/drowsy control to just the right setting for optimal daytime arousal” (page 28). He also says, “Without naps, the child is too drowsy to learn well” (page 28).
2-The Brain Matures During Sleep
As you sleep, your brain works through many things. Your brain processes and catalogs what it learned that day. Synapses form. The brain develops during sleep. In Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, we read: “Research shows that high amounts of REM sleep…help direct the course of brain maturation in early life” (page 29).
3-Sleep is Restorative
When you sleep, your body is restored emotionally, psychologically, and physically. There is a reason we aim for sleep when we are sick and need to get better. There is a reason our sadness is lifted some after we sleep off some bad news.
You know your emotionally preschooler? Sleep will help keep those emotions more in check. It isn’t easy to keep a toddler napping; they usually don’t want to nap! But it is worth it so your preschool years can have naps in them.
Weissbluth says: “Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm” (page 7).
4-It Prevents Crutches and Dependencies in the Future
A huge motivator for me as a mother in making sure my children had great sleep skills is that I don’t! I didn’t want my children to have a hard time falling asleep as adults. I didn’t want my daughters unable to sleep when they had babies (it is incredibly frustrating to have a newborn who sleeps well and be unable to fall asleep yourself!). I don’t want my children to need to turn to sleep props or sleep aids (like medication).
I want them to be able to sleep anytime, anywhere, when needed. I want them to have great sleep habits to take them through their entire lives. I do not just care about having a baby who sleeps well. I want to have preteens and teens who sleep well. I want them to be able to sleep in college. I want them to be able to sleep as adults. This is a lifetime skill.
5-Everyone Gets a Break
As much as we all love each other, absence makes the heart grow fonder. When your baby naps, you miss your baby. Mom can take a nap when the baby or child is napping. Mom gets a break when the baby or child is napping. Mom can do things she needs to do or just relax.
Some people criticize moms for wanting or needing a break of some sort. I find that absurd. There is no job out there that requires people to work 24 hours a day without a break. Even if you have a baby or toddler who sleeps for 12 hours straight at night, that still would mean you are on the job for 12 hours straight. People need breaks. Moms deserve a moment to be able to do something simple like brush her teeth or use the bathroom. There is nothing wrong with a mom wanting that for herself. A sleeping child allows for that.
Sleep is an important skill for life. There are many immediate benefits as well as long-term benefits to a child learning how to sleep independently and develop good sleep skills. I know it can be hard, but it is infinitely worth it! If you need help establishing great sleep with your baby, toddler, or preschooler, get my eBook The Babywise Mom Nap Guide.
Valerie, also known as The Babywise Mom, is the mother to four children. She has been blogging on Babywise and general parenting since 2007. She has a degree in technical writing and loves using those skills to help parents be the best parents they can be! Read her eBook, The Babywise Mom Nap Guide, to get help on sleep from birth through the preschool years. You can also find her writing at Babywise.life, Today Parenting, and Her View From Home. Read more about Valerie and her family on the About page. Follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram for more tips and helps.