Whether your toddler is strewn across the floor kicking and screaming because she can’t have another juice box or your baby is going for the world record in tears cried in one day...we’ve all been there.
Maybe your little one is bouncing off the walls or your preschooler can’t focus even on basic tasks. Know that you’re not alone! Has your child hit someone before? Mine has too.It can be embarrassing, frustrating, and even a hit to the ol’ self-confidence. You, mama, are not doing anything wrong! While less than ideal, these are all normal, healthy childhood behaviors (in moderation) that children will exhibit as they begin to learn the ropes of living in this world. That being said, all of these behaviors can all be improved with adequate sleep.
- Reduce fussiness
- Increase attention span
- Improve adaptability
- Support emotional regulation
- Calm aggressive externalizing behaviors such as hitting
That’s right, all of these incredible things can be achieved by helping your little one get more z’s. The reasoning lies in sleep’s role in brain function when your child is both sleeping and awake.
When we are sleeping, our brain is optimizing brain development by removing irrelevant and redundant information, preserving memory, and strengthening connections between nerves in the brain. You can imagine how important this is during childhood when learning is at its peak!
Studies show that sleep fragmentation (sleep interrupted by periods of wakefulness), sleep duration (total length of sleep), and sleep distribution (amount of sleep during the day versus overnight) all predict emotional and behavioral problems at nearly all ages.
There are two popular theories as to why:
- Dr. Marc Weissbluth, pediatrician, sleep disorder specialist, and advisor at the Family Sleep Institute concludes that sleep loss leads to an elevation of stress hormones in the brain (such as cortisol) which can lead to difficulties with attention management and behavioral regulation.
- Dr. Ronald E. Dahl, Director of the Institute of Human Development at the University of California, Berkeley, suggests sleep loss impacts the interaction of the prefrontal cortex and regulatory systems which can result in poor behavior.
No matter the reason, research shows that sleep loss results in a child’s inability to make well-planned and well-executed responses to social demands. With interrupted or not enough sleep, a child’s ability to differentiate between conflicting thoughts can be compromised.
On the other side, when our little ones get adequate sleep, they can reach optimal wakefulness! Optimal wakefulness allows for an optimal experience: a child with an increased attention span who is more physically relaxed and more mentally alert.
So whether it’s your baby who is overly fussy, your preschooler who is hitting, or your toddler who is hyperactive and unable to focus – enough consolidated sleep at the appropriate times may be what is standing between you and the behavior you know your child is capable of.
For insight and advice about how to get your kids the sleep they need, please visit me at www.wellrestedbaby.com for more information.
Ashley, the founder of Well Rested Baby, has always considered sleep a hobby. After having her first set of twins (that’s right, she has two!), it became a passion. Ashley experienced firsthand how building healthy sleep habits made the "every day" possible; from running errands to outings, from playtime to mealtime, everything was manageable and fun with four well-rested babies. She knew immediately and passionately that she had to share the positivity, calm, and predictability that comes from having a well-rested family, just as hers has. Ashley was certified by the Family Sleep Institute in 2017.
Since then her passion for guiding, supporting, and empowering parents through the fourth trimester and beyond has only grown! Ashley is now a certified parenting coach as well, guiding and supporting parents along the bumps in their parenting journey including tantrums, talking back, sibling rivalry, whining, potty readiness, listening, bedtime battles, power struggles picky eating, and more. Follow Ashley on Instagram at @wellrestedbaby.