Sleep is an essential building block for your child’s mental and physical health. But if you’re finding it impossible to help your toddler sleep, you’re not alone. The American Academy of Pediatrics1 estimates that sleep problems affect 25 to 50 percent of children and 40 percent of adolescents.
Understanding their sleep needs is the first step towards providing better sleep for your children. Through a combination of sleep hygiene, age-appropriate routines, and close attention to any sleep disorders, you can help your child get the rest they need to grow up strong and healthy.
Why is Sleep Important for Children?
Sleep plays a crucial role in the development of young minds. In addition to having a direct effect on happiness, research shows that sleep impacts alertness and attention, cognitive performance, mood, resiliency, vocabulary acquisition, and learning and memory. Sleep also has important effects on growth, especially in early infancy. In toddlers, napping appears to be necessary for memory consolidation, executive attention, and motor skill development.
What Happens When Children Don’t Get Enough Sleep?
As every parent knows, a child that’s short on sleep can swing between being grumpy and hyperactive, with effects that can mimic ADHD. Sleepiness can also affect your child’s ability to pay attention, with ramifications for their performance in school. Even minimal sleep restriction can have effects on your child’s day-to-day life.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), a quarter of children under the age of 5 don’t get adequate sleep. This is worrying because poor sleep in early childhood has been linked to allergic rhinitis and problems with the immune system, as well as anxiety and depression. There is also emerging evidence that poor sleep in childhood may carry future cardiovascular risks in the form of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
In adolescents, inadequate sleep can have long-term effects on academic performance and mental health. The American Medical Association, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the American Academy of Pediatrics consider chronic sleep loss in adolescents to be a public health problem. It is a risk factor for substance abuse and mental health problems, as well as more immediate problems such as car crashes and sports injuries.