We’ve all dreamed of sleeping like a baby (new parents would especially enjoy this little treat), and newborns do what they do best for about 16 hours a day in a 24-hour period–sleep peacefully. They sleep in short bursts that can last anywhere between 40-60 minutes. As they grow into infancy and toddlerhood, their capacity to sleep increases and they can even sleep for hours at a stretch. However, is it a good idea to let your baby sleep for hours at a stretch or should you wake them up within three to fours hours of napping? It is believed that the latter is considered a more beneficial option for both babies and parents. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of sleep for babies and also why we should wake them up after a certain amount of time.
What Are The Benefits of Sleep For Babies?
- Essential For Physical Growth
- Mental Development
- Improved Immune System
- Motor Skill Development
- Parental Wellness
When babies sleep, a growth hormone called somatotropin is released in the body. In babies, 80% of this hormone is released after babies reach the non-REM stage of the sleep cycle. If babies don’t receive adequate sleep, it can hinder their physical growth. Sufficient sleep also aids in digestion and healthy weight gain along with overall growth.
Every adult has been advised at least eight hours of sleep every night to recharge and rejuvenate and how a good night’s rest helps the brain reset and fight off lethargy. It isn’t any different for babies. You may be surprised to learn that most of the baby’s brain development happens while they sleep. As they make memories, their brain stores all they’ve learned during the day when asleep. So, a well-rested baby will have better cognitive development than a baby who’s not seeing adequate sleep. Healthy sleep patterns are also linked to emotional well-being and help in emotional regulation while lack of sleep can make babies fussy and irritable.
Sufficient sleep is necessary for a baby as it boosts their immune system. Sleep enhances the production of cytokines, a type of protein that plays a key role in immune system functioning. Hence, the better rested a baby is, the better equipped they are to fight off infections and illnesses.
Sleep is necessary for babies as it helps in the development of both gross and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills like crawling and walking and fine motor skills like reaching out and grasping objects are strengthened by a healthy sleep cycle.
A healthy, happy, well-rested child often also means the same for parents. Babies who sleep well are a boon to parents as it impacts their overall well-being positively. When babies sleep better, parents can also find themselves time to squeeze in naps and are better able to manage their daily chores and responsibilities.
Now, let’s take a look at when it’s a good idea to awaken sleeping babies.
When To Awaken Sleeping Babies
- It’s Feeding Time
- Your Baby Is Oversleeping
- When You’re Trying to Set A Nighttime Routine
One of the times you must wake your baby up is to ensure that they are fed on time. If there’s a feeding schedule you follow every day, stick to it, even if it means waking your baby up. Following the schedule will also help your baby grasp the concept of time and routine. If it’s been more than three hours since the last feed, it’s time to feed your baby again and give him the adequate calories and nutrition he needs on a daily basis.
Did you know that babies spend 95% of their time sleeping in the womb? While sleeping through the day may be a common practice in newborn babies, it is best not to encourage this pattern as they grow older. Pay attention to total naptime during the day. If your baby already takes two healthy-timed naps, it’s best to eliminate the third nap altogether. Ensure that each nap is not longer than three hours.
Children will do well to go to bed by 8pm. If you start setting a schedule for them early on, it will be easier to follow as they grow older. In order to do so, keep an eye on your child’s last nap for the day. If your child is under 4 months, the last nap should end at 6pm and for those around 10 months, the last nap time should end at 5pm. For children over 14 months, the last nap time should be at 3:30pm.
How To Gently Awaken Your Baby
While some babies may sleep like a log, some wake up to the sound of a pin. Suddenly jerking babies awake may scare them and immediately put them in a foul mood and make them cry. Try these gentle and easy ways to wake your baby up:
- If you use a sound or white noise machine to help put your baby to sleep, gently turn down the volume first and eventually turn it off.
- Don’t open the curtains or blinds at one go or in a flourish. Do it slowly so that your waking baby can adjust their sight from the transitioning dark to light.
- Gently rub their back or their forehead to alert them of safe movements.
- If there is a particular nursery rhyme or song your child is fond of, sing it to them as they wake up to your soothing voice.
- If you like to have your baby napping in a swaddle, slowly and gingerly unswaddle them. Once their arms are free, they will most likely notice their movements by themselves and wake up on their own.
- If there are other small children and pets in the house, ensure that they are not around when the baby is sleeping or when you are waking them up. Pets and younger siblings may be excited to see the young one awake and may want to immediately start playing with them, which may make them perform some unexpected actions.
As babies grow into fully functioning young adults, parents may look back at their initial days with pride. What they may not notice is how something as basic as sleep and how much or how little they slept, also play an important role in shaping their overall growth and development. At EuroKids, we pay attention to every single child and help them become the best version of themselves through interactive learning, healthy playtime, and a world of wonder to prepare them for future challenges. As India’s preschool expert, we urge you to start your child’s early education journey with us.