In parental circles, whether and for how long your newborn sleeps is the source of bragging rights, even envy. You've probably heard it before: "My baby slept through the night at seven weeks." It's right up there with "My baby was fully potty trained at 12 months." Such statements inspire envy, incredulity, and, in some cases, the primitive, over-exhausted-mom-urge to pop the speaker in the face.
But, at some point, sleep pride changes. Once our kiddos start toddling, we talk instead about how active he or she is, how busy with music class, Little Gym, soccer, swim class, art class, and or kiddie science. Not to mention the zoo, aquarium, Children's Museum, science center, library, and park trips. Or the cool art projects, science experiments, or cookie-making we do at home. I may be off-base, but it sometimes feels like choosing naptime over activities becomes a source of ... Is it shame? Embarrassment? Cause for being judged? But why? Sleep doesn’t just give us parents downtime. It is just as important for a child's well-being as the amazing opportunities we want to provide. And our little ones need lots of it. (Check out the National Sleep Foundation's recommended sleep quotas for kiddos here.)
So why is sleep so good? Well, among other things, it promotes growth, helps regulate stress hormones and blood glucose, helping guard against diabetes, heart disease and obesity, and it helps the body produce cytokines, which helps fight disease. Sleep also helps a child learn, retain memories, and master body control. Sleep also helps a child's ability to focus; it increases attention span. And moreover, sleep begets sleep. Better naps lead to better night sleep and that is good for everyone! To learn more about the benefits of sleep, click here.