Every parent is concerned for their family’s well-being. In the chaotic and busy world that we live in, although we have the best intentions to contribute to our family’s health and wellness, unfortunately, following through with these plans are difficult at times.
One aspect of a family’s wellness that should not be compromised is healthy sleep. No matter which way you slice it, everyone needs a healthy amount of sleep in order to get through their day, honor their commitments and accomplish their goals.
I use the term “healthy sleep” for a reason. There is a difference between healthy sleep and what we as child sleep consultants refer to as “junk sleep.”
Junk sleep is not beneficial to the sleep cycle and is not mentally or physically restorative. It occurs at times that are not in synchrony with our biological sleep rhythms. As a result, our moods are altered, relationships are compromised and it puts us at an overall risk to properly care for our family.
“The more rested a child, the more they accept sleep and expect sleep.” However, in order for this to occur, parents need to respect sleep. It is essential that children practice healthy sleep schedules because it positively contributes to their development, but it is just as important for parents to do the same.
When children sleep well, so do their parents. Routines and scheduled bedtimes are just as beneficial to parents as they are to children. Getting an adequate amount of rest is a struggle for many adults but prioritizing your daily activities is one way to make sure you are home in time to get the rest you need.
Children who are not on controlled sleep schedules can develop major sleep problems. Behavior problems are likely to follow. “Persistent sleeping problems in children have been linked to psychiatric symptoms in adolescents, hyperactivity in children, and depression in their mothers.”
The long term effects of a healthy sleep routine implemented by parents of a newborn are essential to investing in that child’s future. Healthy sleep has long term benefits, in addition to immediate ones.
It improves a child’s mood, their temperament, and most importantly their cognitive development and performance. As parents, one of the steps we can take to making sure that our child will receive these benefits is to make sure that we are recognizing their signs of fatigue and soothing them to sleep promptly.
This all begins when parents are caring for their new born. A healthy sleep schedule and soothing routine are essential for every child to learn. When I was pregnant with my son, everyone was offering advice on many aspects of parenting, but for some reason no one was handing out the advice I could have really used which was how to teach my child to get the rest he deserved.
When children are born, parents have so many concerns, worries, excitements and strategies for the raising of that child. Many parents, I included, focused on these other aspects and assumed that proper rest would just come naturally and that a healthy sleep routine would eventually fall into place. After my son was born, reality soon kicked in.
Healthy sleep is taught by parents and learned by the child. Healthy sleep practices will continue down the road into that child’s future. Children who are forced to “crash” due to exhaustion and put in harsh and unproductive sleep environments will develop anxiety which will carry on down the road and will surround bedtime.
Before hiring a sleep consultant for my son, I had never heard this term used before. I knew that if I hadn’t, then other parents haven’t either. Parents must make sleep a priority and there is a right way to do so!
Many times parents are so sleep deprived that they might not be thinking clearly and will do anything just to get their child to sleep. This is why I feel it is so important to go into parenthood with the knowledge and tools needed to create a healthy sleep schedule as well as a healthy sleep environment so that you are prepared when the time comes.
Unfortunately many of these unhealthy and “junk sleep” situations created by parents leave the child overtired and cranky.
Child as well as adult sleep quality depends on not only the duration and consolidation of sleep but also the timing of sleep periods. Making sleep a priority is making an investment into your child’s future health and wellness.
In order to do this, parents need to respect not only their children’s need for sleep but also their own. Sleep duration and timing of sleep are both factors that contribute to alert and productive wakeful periods.
Sleep deprivation can have a negative effect of a person’s outlook on life. This leads to depression because mood and temperament are being altered. “Sleep deprivation is as unhealthy as feeding a child a nutritionally deficient diet.” ((Weissbluth, Marc. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child: A Step-by-step Program for a Good Night’s Sleep. New York: Ballantine Books, 2005)) In other words, the same way that junk food negatively affects our body; junk sleep negatively affects our brain.
In today’s world, it is easy to get caught up in our daily activities and commitments and unfortunately our family’s rest often gets put on the back burner. “When you maintain a healthy nap schedule and your child sleeps well during the day, jealous friends will accuse you of being overprotective.
They’ll say, “It’s not real life” or “Bring her along so she’ll learn to play with other children” or “You’re really spoiling her.”
Suggestion: Change friends, or keep your baby’s long naps a family secret.” Every day, we as parents are making investments into our child’s future, it is imperative that healthy sleep is one of them.
Diana Flutie is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant from Helena, Montana. Originally from the UK, Diana graduated from the School of Justice Studies and Social Inquiry at Arizona State University with a specialization in developmental psychology and English.