Humans, like all animals, need sleep, along with food, water and oxygen, to survive. Babies, children, and teens need significantly more sleep than adults to support their rapid mental and physical development.
Most parents know that growing kids need good sleep, but many don't know just how many hours kids require, and what can be the consequence of missing as little as 1 hour of sleep time. It is a known fact that newborn babies and sleepless nights go hand- in hand. However, if sleepless nights stretch out to weeks or even months, it most definitely has a detrimental effect on normal growth and development.
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One of the reasons it gets so difficult to know when babies are getting insufficient sleep is that drowsy babies don't necessarily slow down the way adults do. They often act as if they are not tired, resisting bedtime and becoming hyper as the evening goes on. All this can happen because the baby is overtired.
Sleep problems in infants are common. By six months, many babies have the ability to go through the night without a feed and to re-settle themselves after night waking. But night waking still occurs in 36-45% of infants aged six months to one year to a degree that is considered problematic by parents.
If you suspect that your baby is not sleeping enough, it is important to talk to your paediatrician. If there is an underlying sleep disorder or other medical condition at play, your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist to discuss various treatment options.
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In many cases, though, sleep deprivation in children can be helped with changes to the environment and habits surrounding bedtime like lilting music at the background, the absence of “noise”, dim lights in the room, the mother’s mood just before putting the baby to sleep etc. Research shows that an early bedtime (between 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. works best for babies and kids through school age) and a consistent, soothing, wind-down routine with no screen time, such as TVs, cell phones, etc., will lead to better sleep.
How Much Sleep Do Children Need?
The panel at the National Sleep Foundation (2015) revised the recommended sleep ranges for all six children and teenage groups. A summary of the new recommendations includes:
Category Age Approx. hours of sleep/day
Newborns 0-3 months 14-17
Infants 4-11 months 12-15
Toddlers 1-2 years 11-14
Preschoolers 3-5 years 10-13
School-age 6-13years 9-11
Teenagers 14-17years 8-10
Young adults 18-25years 7-9
Adults 26-64years 7-9
Old adults 65+years 7-8
There are some underlying psychiatric conditions, such as attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that can cause sleep loss in children. Researchers and clinicians are also finding that sleep apnea- which most people tend to think of as an adult sleep disorder, is relatively common in children as well.
A person who has sleep apnea wakes up many times every hour, very briefly, as they struggle to breathe. Children who snore may be at risk for or currently suffering from sleep apnea, which is why the American Academy of Paediatrics recently recommended that paediatricians ask about and screen for this sleep disorder in children at routine checkups and visits.
Some Safe Sleeping Tips
- Put babies to sleep on their backs.
- Make sure babies’ heads do not get covered while they sleep.
- Avoid smoking.
- Use a cot that meets current safety standards.
- Share a room.
- Breastfeed your baby if you can and if they need.
- Avoid cot bumpers, soft toys, pillows and cushions.
- Use a firm and well-fitting mattress.
- Avoid baby sleeping on couches or makeshift bedding.
- Dress your baby in clothing that’s warm, but not hot.
If you have tips and tricks that may help babies sleep better, do share it with us in the comment section below. Happy Parenting!
Must Read: How To Bond With Your Baby?
Contributed by -
Ms Lekha Vyas (Nutritionist, Mumbai Cloudnine)
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