Bensons for Babies: Why is sleep so important for toddlers?
We all know that the benefits of a good night’s sleep go beyond simply feeling relaxed and well-rested. Sleep is also a time when we truly switch off, allowing our brains to recharge, our muscles to relax and our bodies to recuperate.
Exactly how important is sleep for little kids, though? From how it can limit their social development to why their immune systems can be affected, here we explore why plenty of sleep is crucial and how you can ensure your toddler is getting the right amount.
So, why is sleep important for children and babies?
There are numerous reasons why getting enough shut-eye is particularly essential for babies and toddlers, who still have plenty of physical and emotional growing to do.
Sleep is vital for growth
Babies and kids grow at an extremely fast rate. They’re extremely energetic during the day and constantly on the move as they develop and explore. This movement is what helps them build up things like muscle and joint strength as well as their flexibility and dexterity.
By not getting enough sleep, your little one will be too tired to walk, run or crawl around as much as they need to. Consequently, this could potentially lead to slow or stunted growth.
Sleep is essential for proper brain function
Throughout the day, children are constantly using their brains to explore and understand their environments. This can be pretty tiresome and ultimately make them feel grumpy and unable to think or react properly if they’re not given enough opportunity to switch off.
Regular sleep essentially allows little ones to slow down their brain function and recharge their batteries. Tired toddlers tend to be more on edge and feel more insecure, factors that can have knock-on effects with their overall behaviour and social development.
Sleep helps boost their immune systems
When we’re ill, sleep is one of the best things for recovery as it allows your body to reboot itself and become more efficient at fighting off germs and other nasties.
If your toddler is tired, their body won’t be working at its full capacity. This means they’re less likely to be able to combat bacteria or viruses that might be attacking their immune system. As children have weaker immune systems than adults anyway, a lack of sleep can actually be dangerous, and make them more likely to develop health problems in later life.
Less sleep also means less energy, and many kids make up for this by eating more. This can cause them to swiftly become over-weight and put them at risk of diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart conditions.
Sleep allows children to learn
Little children are typically very curious and in constant awe of the world around them. When they’re awake, they’re continuously absorbing information from their environment — but all this needs somewhere to go.
Sleep allows their brains to properly store and retain all that information. A lack of shut-eye can therefore lead to slower learning rates, poorer memories and lower concentration levels.
How much sleep should toddlers be getting?
Experts estimate that most kids under the age of three will sleep for around 50% of the day, more so if they’re under one year old. Getting your toddler onto a regular sleep schedule, which includes around 11-12 hours of sleep at night and an hour or so of napping in the day, is ideal for helping promote healthy growth and development.
What are the effects of lack of sleep with toddlers?
If your toddler is regularly not getting the right amount of sleep to support their development, it can have both minor and major consequences. These may include:
Stunted growth and slow development of motor skills.
A weaker immune system and, therefore, higher risk of health problems.
Poorly developed social skills as they’ll likely be tense and jittery rather than relaxed and confident.
Sleep disorders such as night terrors or sleep apnea.
How can you make your baby or toddler more comfortable when they’re sleeping?
Just like adults, it’s possible for little ones to also have problems falling and staying asleep for a healthy amount of time. To avoid them becoming sleep deprived or developing sleep disorders, you should ensure you’re doing everything possible to make their bed as comfy as it can be.
We consulted our buying expert, Pam Johnson, about what you should consider when choosing the perfect mattress and bed for your toddler:
Always check that their mattress is the right size for their cot bed— mattresses should fit snugly (with a 3cm or less gap) against the side of the bed to avoid your child’s arms and legs getting stuck.
Choose a high quality, supportive mattress — just like with adults, a supportive mattress is essential for a comfortable and healthy night’s sleep. This is especially true with kids under two who are still developing their brains and strengthening their spines.
Opt for a waterproof mattress that can be easily cleaned — little ones are prone to having accidents as they sleep so a waterproof mattress that’s easy to wipe clean is essential to avoid bacteria building up.
Top tips for healthy sleep with toddlers
Ensure your child goes to sleep at the same time every night so you can monitor how much sleep they’re getting on average.
Make sure their bed is comfortable and supportive with a high-quality mattress and hypoallergenic bedding that’s soft on their skin.
Keep their bedroom warm and quiet in addition to eliminating any unnatural light that might keep them awake.
Have a soothing bedtime routine that involves activities like having a relaxing bath or reading a calming bedtime story.
Limit screen time in the hours before bed and avoid letting them watch scary programmes that could make them feel anxious or lead to nightmares.
If your toddler wakes in the night, don’t take them out of their room. Stimulation from movement or their environment will make them more alert and less likely to fall back asleep quickly.
Take a look at our Kids Zone to discover our complete range of high quality beds and mattresses for children of all ages that are all designed to promote comfy and health sleep.