Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Significance of a Sleeping Brain

As a mother of a newborn, "sleep" is an increasingly interesting and important topic in our household.  Not only for my baby, but for my husband and myself - which brings me to the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Weissbluth.  Since I'm a psychiatry resident as well as a mom, I'm especially drawn to Dr. Weissbluth's discussion on studies showing sleep linked to temperament and attention in children.

Children need sleep in order to develop.  A sleeping brain is more than just a resting brain; it is a brain that's able to restore, process, and complete essential tasks that an active awake brain is unable to do.  Dr. Weissbluth explains that for young infants, daytime sleeping or naps can help to enhance the brain’s capacity to think.  When we become adults, our busy schedules cause us to forget the importance of these daytime respites and restorations.  Our hectic grown-up days may not always allow naptime, but naps are essential to raising healthy infants and kids.  

The significance of sleep doesn't only apply to young children.  Did you know that teenagers need more sleep than pre-teens?  So, to all parents who are noticing behavior problems, irritability, decreased concentration, or other changes in your children's moods, focus on their sleeping habits.  HealthyMinds.org blogger Dr. Gariane Gunter shares how many hours of sleep a child needs according to his or her age in this postI've included some of her tips below:
  • Birth-6 Months: Children need 16-20 hours
  • 6-12 Months: Children need 14-15 hours
  • Ages 1-3: Children need 10-13 hours
  • Ages 3-10: Children need 10-12 hours
  • Ages 11-12: Children need 9-12 hours
  • Teenagers need 10-12 hours of sleep per night

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