Bedtime battles are stressful for caregivers during all stages of early development. Challenges with a child’s sleep routine can begin in the newborn days with a fussy baby who is difficult to soothe. Challenges can continue into the infant stage when babies can can pull to a stand to resist going to bed. Mobile and active toddlers may leave their beds for one more hug or one more drink of water.
Sleep routines can have additional challenges for families of young children with disabilities or developmental delays. Families may have worked through difficulties related to sleep apnea or other health concerns. They may need to use additional equipment to keep their child safe at night.
Exhausted parents and caregivers tire of fighting the bedtime battle. However, the rewards for persistently building a healthy sleep routine are worth the fight. Turn to your early intervention team for guidance and support to find a routine that works well for your family. As you work through each challenge, remember that each night of healthy sleep is a step toward physical, emotional, and cognitive well-being for your child and family. Healthy sleep can help you:
- Build a healthy body. Proper rest is connected to healthy growth patterns. A well-rested child is better able to fight off illness, maintain a healthy body weight, and have better overall physical health. Certain hormones that help with the repair and growth of cells are only released during deep sleep.
- Boost brain development. The brains of infants and toddlers are growing and active during sleep. Sleep is when the brains of young children are actively working through memories and cognitive processes and even solidifying the underlying brain processes for physical development.
- Support self-regulation. Self-regulation refers to how the brain and body work together to control emotions, attention, and thoughts. A well-rested child has an easier time coping with big emotions and transitions throughout the day. Proper rest helps children sustain attention when they are exploring new things and learning about their world through play.
- Improve overall family health. Research also indicates that the whole family’s health is improved when parents and other adults who live with young children get healthy sleep. Consider the needs of the whole family for rest when planning a sleep routine for young children.
The post was adapted from an article that first appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of the Early Intervention Clearinghouse newsletter.