A baby may need between 11–17 hours of sleep a day and getting enough sleep is very important for their growth and development. Sleep helps with neurosensory development, brain development, and physical growth. Sleep may impact their temperament and also helps babies learn better. When the baby is asleep, they aren’t just resting up! Mother nature has programmed this period for extreme growth and development milestones.
Sleep has an important place in a baby’s day and can influence their growth and development. Actually, more than half of the first year of a baby’s life will be spent sleeping. Here are five reasons why parents need to make sure they get enough sleep:
Helps brain development
One of the important aspect that sleep impacts our brain development. A vital component involved in the maturation of the brain is brain plasticity, which is the ability of the brain to respond to the environment by changing its function and structure. Animal studies have found that young animals who are deprived of sleep experience loss of brain plasticity. This is characterized by a reduction in learning and negative behavioral effects.
Boosts Physical Growth
Sleep may play vital roles in babies` physical growth. Bursts of growth hormone secretions are known to occur when you are in deep asleep during a stage of sleep known as slow-wave sleep. The central nervous system develops most dramatically in the first 2 years after birth and sleeps support this growth.
Uninterrupted, Sound and comfortable sleep for baby equals better behavior and mood. It is also associated with being more alert and optimal physical functioning. This one may come as no surprise. After all, we all know that babies and adults, who don’t get enough sleep can be a little cranky. Studies have also shown that young children who get less sleep have more difficult temperaments. In fact, one study even found that babies who slept less at night at 3 weeks were more irritable even when they were 3 months old.
Helps with neurosensory development
Sleep is also very important for the proper development of the neurosensory system of the baby. Baby’s neurosensory system is stimulated from within when they are asleep. This is known as endogenous stimulation and alludes to discharges from neurons that may not be associated with the external environment of the baby. These discharges are important for the normal development of the neurosensory system – which includes touch, visual, auditory and vestibular systems – as they create connections between brain structures and sensory organs. Endogenous stimulation happens only during a stage of sleep known as REM sleep. Animal studies have even found that interfering with REM sleep can result in abnormalities in the development of these structures and systems. For example, animal studies show that early REM sleep deprivation can lead to underdevelopment of the visual system. This is why it impairs the formation of connections between a part of the brain known as the lateral geniculate nucleus and the retinal ganglion cells. These cells normally carry light which has been converted to electrical signals by photoreceptors in eyes to the lateral geniculate nucleus. Infants with physical or neurodevelopmental disabilities have been found to have sleep patterns that are different from other babies who don’t have these problems. This has prompted many researchers to see a link between sleep inconsistencies and developmental problems.
There is a fact that babies learn even while they’re sleeping. While a study, sleeping babies were exposed to a sequence of sounds that was played repeatedly and this recording was occasionally interspersed with a strange sound. The brainwaves of the babies indicated that they reacted with surprise to the strange sound. That is, they processed information about the environment and used it to form new neuronal pathways for learning while they were asleep.
Sleep plays a role in memory consolidation and helps baby learn better. One study taught 15-month-old babies an artificial language. It was found that the group that took a gap between the teaching of the language and the test that followed not only remembered word pairings that were taught but were also able to learn abstract relations between those words, for example, the rules that govern grammar. They were able to recognize those rules in new word pairings as well. On the other hand, the babies that did not nap only remembered the word pairings that were taught. So sleep may qualitatively improve baby’s learning.