We all know how lack-lustre we feel when we don’t get enough high quality sleep. Following a bad night’s sleep, work can be a struggle and concentration levels can suffer as we fight to stay focused or, at times, even awake — especially come mid-afternoon!
If adults feel like that, imagine how babies, toddlers and preschoolers feel after a bad night’s sleep. Adults understand why they’re feeling fatigued and what they need to do about it. However, young children simply don’t understand why everything is such a struggle. They may throw tantrums and even become a danger to themselves when they’re too tired. With too little sleep, they often become tearful, lacking in energy, intolerant and — dare we say it — very grumpy to be around!
“I don’t know whether to take a nap … or cry about being tired.”
Toddlers and under-fives at nursery or pre-school will not learn so effectively if they have not had enough sleep. Concentration levels, memory and general cognitive function are all adversely affected when sleep has been lacking. There are even some serious health risks associated with the lack of regular sleep. These include mental health issues, possible blood pressure problems and diabetes. If poor sleep goes unchecked, the release of growth and repair hormones could also become deficient — and that is absolutely critical in the early years when children are growing and developing.
So, what can be done to improve both the quality and length of your infant’s sleep, and how much is enough?
How Much Sleep is Enough for Babies & Under-5s?
Babies and toddlers require significantly more sleep than adults. The recommendations for sleep below are from the NHS:
- • Newborn babies will generally be asleep more than they are awake and this is normal. They can be sleeping anywhere between 16 and 18 hours per day in total, although usually wake during the night at some point(s) to be fed. During the day, sleep patterns for newborns can be erratic and made up of lots of shorter sleeps rather than one huge multi-hour one. By the time they reach approximately 3 months of age, they may begin to sleep right through the night.
- • Babies aged between 4 months and a year should be getting 12 to 16 hours of sleep per 24-hour day. This includes naps, so don’t expect them to sleep this long in one go, of course.
- • At the age of 1 to 2, toddlers should be getting between 11 and 14 hours of sleep per 24 hours, again including any daytime naps.
- • Between the ages of 3 and 5, this reduces a little to between 10 to 13 hours of sleep per 24 hours, including daytime naps, dropping to 9 to 12 hours from 6 to 12 years of age.
How Can Parents Help?
‘Sleep Hygiene’ is all about setting a suitable routine for the baby or child, and sticking to it, so that it becomes a pattern that everyone follows. With such a routine, children will naturally adjust and more easily go to sleep at the appropriate, planned times. And, once asleep, they should remain so under a good sleep hygiene regime. There are several things that can help to achieve this:
- • Avoiding caffeine in drinks, from lunchtime onwards, will help. Caffeine can be found in tea and coffee as well as in some fizzy drinks. Warm milk is better.
- • Similarly, electronic screens are a brain stimulant that should be avoided several hours before bedtime. That includes TVs, mobile phones, tablets and games consoles.
- • Avoid letting your child exercise or play vigorously close to bedtime. This too can act as a brain stimulant.
- • Meal times should also not be too close to bedtime.
- • Your child’s room should be in a quiet part of the house and not contain anything that will stimulate your child close to bedtime. The ability to have low/dimmed lights will help. TVs, mobiles and other electronic screens should not be accessible in the child’s room. It should be cosy and peaceful, perhaps with a cuddly toy or two rather than any toys that will stimulate the child’s mind. In essence, their room should be associated with sleep … not play.
- • In the run-up to bedtime, parents should encourage their little ones to wind down physically and mentally. A leisurely bath or warm shower followed by a gentle bedtime story with dimmed lights should set the mood.
- • Last but not least, parents must not allow children to dictate the rules around bedtime and sleeping routines. For example, if they creep into your bedroom or bed at night, gently settle them back into their bed, without fuss or unnecessary conversation, and repeat if necessary. They’ll soon get the message even if it takes repeated attempts. If they are scared of the dark, then a well-positioned (dim) night light may help.
“Don’t talk to me right now … I was up all night keeping my parents awake — and I’m exhausted.”
Sleep at Leaps & Bounds Day Nursery, Edgbaston
The very young at Leaps and Bounds Day Nursery benefit from two sleeping sessions each day; one in the morning and one in the afternoon. This is particularly good for babies and very young toddlers. Older preschoolers can choose whether or not to take a nap during these sessions although, of course, staff will always be aware when a child is overly tired and could benefit from some rest in a peaceful, quiet environment. We also encourage parents to let us know if they would like their child to sleep in a particular daily pattern and we’ll always do our best to accommodate their wishes and any personal preferences or needs.
Nursery Places Available in Edgbaston, Birmingham
We currently have a few limited spaces available at our outstanding nursery in Edgbaston, Birmingham. It’s near Ladywood, Bearwood, Harborne and Smethwick too, so may be a good nursery choice for those living or working in those locations. We’re also a Forest School for those who are keen for their children to enjoy and learn from everything that nature and the Great Outdoors has to offer. Telephone 0121 720 8405 for further details or book a nursery visit here and we’ll be happy to show you and your little one around.