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Sleep And Early Learning

Parents have always felt that sleep directly affects a child's mood, and most would agree it has a big impact on learning and behavior. Pediatric doctors and researchers suggest that sleep is also essential to good health. When kids get the sleep they need, they may have a lower risk of becoming overweight, developing diabetes, and have fewer learning problems or attention issues.

At night, the body repackages neurotransmitters (chemicals that enable brain cells to communicate) and allow brain cells to "take out the trash" each night, flushing out disease-causing toxins, and allowing for new brain cell connections to be formed and developed.

Getting enough sleep is crucial to the early learning process. Adults experience grogginess, poor moods, and lethargy when they miss out on sleep. In children, the effects are more long term and drastic. Things like a good nighttime routine, getting your kids to bed on time, and good-morning rituals will influence children for life, and setup good habits for the future. No matter how old your child is, it’s never too late to start focusing on good sleep habits. Below are some tips from The National Sleep Foundation.

1. Helps support Growth and relieve stress
Children who get less sleep tend to have higher levels of cortisol, leading to more stress. And stressed out kids have a harder time focusing on daily activities, and potential to learn new things. Human growth hormones, the main component of growth, are released primarily during deep sleep, helping us in the growth process. Cortisol and insulin are also affected by sleep deprivation. The low levels of insulin that result from a lack of sleep can lead to obesity problems and diabetes. When kids are unable to develop daily and nightly in a healthy manner, their ability to develop mentally is challenged.

2. Restores Energy
We all know that a good night sleep is necessary for good energy levels, and with a full night sleep, the body is rejuvenated. Kids fully recover the ability to develop social, mental, and motor skills, unlocking their full potential. Additionally, a lack of sleep can produce negative emotions and behaviors, making it harder for your child to form healthy relationships, and interact.

3. Improves Memory
Good sleeping habits are connected to better memory retention. Children who sleep longer are better able to recall what they had just learned. This is especially true if they slept shortly after their lesson, meaning naps are also vital to early learning. This is why at KidsFirst Learning Center, we have a rest/nap/quiet time scheduled from 11:00am-2:00pm each day for little minds to rest and recharge. This along with a solid 11 to 13 hours of sleep every night will help your young learner have a better memory, and get interested in creating new ones.

By the age:

Sleep Tips for Newborns (0-3 months)
It is best to put babies to bed when they are sleepy, but not asleep. They are more likely to fall asleep quickly and eventually learn how to get themselves to sleep. Newborns can be encouraged to sleep less during the day by exposing them to light and noise, and by playing more with them in the daytime. As evening approaches, the environment can be quieter and dimmer with less activity. This will help you start establishing a good nighttime routine for the years to come.
  • Observe baby's sleep patterns and identify signs of sleepiness.
  • Put baby in the crib when drowsy, not asleep.
  • Place baby to sleep on his/her back with face and head clear of blankets and other soft items.
  • Encourage nighttime sleep.
Sleep and Infants (4-11 months)
By six months of age, nighttime feedings are usually not necessary and many infants sleep through the night; 70-80 percent will do so by nine months of age. Infants typically sleep 9-12 hours during the night and take 30 minutes to two-hour naps, one to four times a day – fewer as they reach age one.

When infants are put to bed drowsy but not asleep, they are more likely to become "self- soothers" which enables them to fall asleep independently at bedtime and put themselves back to sleep during the night. Those who have become accustomed to parental assistance at bedtime often become "signalers" and cry for their parents to help them return to sleep during the night.

Social and developmental issues can also affect sleep. Secure infants who are attached to their caregiver may have less sleep problems, but some may also be reluctant to give up this engagement for sleep. During the second half of the year, infants may also experience separation anxiety. Illness and increased motor development could also disrupt sleep.

  • Develop regular daytime and bedtime schedules.
  • Create a consistent and enjoyable bedtime routine.
  • Establish a regular "sleep friendly" environment.
  • Encourage baby to fall asleep independently.
Sleep for Toddlers (1-2 years)
Toddlers need about 11-14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. When they reach about 18 months of age their naptimes will decrease to once a day lasting about one to three hours. Naps should not occur too close to bedtime as they may delay sleep at night.

Many toddlers experience sleep problems including resisting going to bed and nighttime awakenings. Nighttime fears and nightmares are also common.

Many factors can lead to sleep problems. Toddlers' drive for independence and an increase in their motor, cognitive and social abilities can interfere with sleep. In addition, their ability to get out of bed, separation anxiety, the need for autonomy and the development of the child's imagination can lead to sleep problems. Daytime sleepiness and behavior problems may signal poor sleep or a sleep problem.

  • Maintain a daily sleep schedule and consistent bedtime routine.
  • Make the bedroom environment the same every night and throughout the night.
  • Set limits that are consistent, communicated and enforced. Encourage use of a security object such as a blanket or stuffed animal.
Sleep and Preschoolers (3-5 years)
Preschoolers typically sleep 11-13 hours each night and most do not nap after five years of age. As with toddlers, difficulty falling asleep and waking up during the night are common. With further development of imagination, preschoolers commonly experience nighttime fears and nightmares. In addition, sleepwalking and sleep terrors peak during preschool years.

  • Maintain a regular and consistent sleep schedule.
  • Have a relaxing bedtime routine that ends in the room where the child sleeps.
  • Child should sleep in the same sleeping environment every night, in a room that is cool, quiet and dark – and without a TV.
  • A security item specifically for night may help relax and allow them to be more comfortable alone. Ex: stuffed animal, teddy bear, new toy, etc.
Older Children (6-13 years)
School age children have many more activities throughout the day including school (e.g., homework), sports and other extracurricular and social activities. They also become more interested in TV, computers, the media and the Internet as well as caffeine products – all of which can lead to difficulty falling asleep, nightmares and disruptions to their sleep. Watching TV close to bedtime has been associated with bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep, anxiety around sleep and sleeping fewer hours.

Sleep problems and disorders are prevalent at this age. Poor or inadequate sleep can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems such as ADHD and cognitive problems that impact on their ability to learn in school.

  • School aged children need 9-11 hours of sleep each night.
  • Teach school-aged children about healthy sleep habits and routine.
  • Create a checklist for bed, starting the routine at the same time each night.
  • Continue to emphasize need for regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
  • Make child's bedroom conducive to sleep – dark, cool and quiet.
  • Keep TV and computers out of the bedroom.
  • Avoid caffeine throughout the day, and in the evening.


Did You Know. . .

  • KidsFirst has an "open door policy." This means parents can visit or call anytime, without notice.
  • KidsFirst play areas have cushioned floors and walls to avoid fall injuries and encourage first steps.
  • All KidsFirst babies – to 18 months – have their own cribs with their names; cribs are never shared.

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