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The importance of sleep in young children


Jennifer Streit 2009

Stay at home parents understand that naptime is when things get done, but how important is that nap for your child? According to the Children's Hospital in Denver, regular sleep patterns are extremely important for young children.

Naps, in particular, are important. A child who sleeps, or rests at the very least, during the day is less cranky, has less adrenaline, goes to bed at night easier and is better able to focus and learn.

That doesn't mean that every child needs to nap until he's in school, or that individual sleep schedules won't alter significantly from child to child.

A child who doesn't get enough sleep, like adults who don't, will be cranky, but unlike adults they get excitable and twitchy as well. Contrary to popular belief, keeping a child awake in the hopes that he or she will sleep better later, doesn't work. Children have a harder time sleeping when they overly tired.

So, how much sleep does your child need, and how do you get him to actually do it? Every child is different but some general guidelines are that infants need 10 to 18 hours, toddlers need about 12 to 14 and children over 3 need around 10 to 13.  Since hunger, thirst, bladders and nightmares frequently disrupt nighttime sleep, you can see how important daily sleep is for your little ones to function well.

A solid, consistent, bedtime routine is the best way to ensure a good night time experience for your child. A consistent schedule with daytime sleep is also very important. Pacifiers, teddy bears, special blankets and nightlights can help immensely but be sure your infant is on her back and don't put your child to bed with a bottle.