Sleep is a primary human function, but also an incredibly complex behavior. It plays a significant role in children’s lives and their continued development and health. It is essential not only for daily functioning but also for children’s physical growth, learning, and well-being. Like for adults, for toddlers, sleep is a great way to process all the information the brain receives in a day. As a result of insufficient quality sleep, children cannot control their emotions and behavior and have difficulty concentrating. In this case, there is a higher level of risk of accidents, injuries, and illnesses. Therefore, it is important to create conditions for the baby to fall asleep and carefully monitor that nothing interferes with his proper sleep.
Types of Sleep and Their Impact on the Memories and Mood
Children, like adults, differ in the amount of sleep they need. It depends on several factors, including age, developmental stage, genetics, home environment, daily activities, culture, and health. The general number of hours a child sleeps in a day decreases with age. For example, recommendations for children 3-5 years old suggest that they usually need 10-13 hours of sleep each day (Kurdziel et al., 2018). It is mainly a night’s sleep, while the duration of a day’s sleep is about an hour.
Sleep in early childhood begins the process of remodeling learned memories, which may be sufficient to provide short-term benefits in regulating mood and emotions. It includes a number of states that perform different functions. The discovery by Aserinsky and Kleitman of the phase of “REM” sleep, during which there are rapid eyeball movements with closed eyelids, served as the basis for studies of the physiology of sleep (Kurdziel et al., 2018). Thus, the two main brain conditions that occur during sleep are slow-wave sleep, also known as deep sleep (SWS), and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. These sleep phases alternate with a frequency of 90–120 minutes, which in general constitutes a complete sleep cycle (Kurdziel et al., 2018). Night sleep usually consists of 4-6 full processes, each of which begins with the first stages of SWS sleep and ends with REM sleep (Kurdziel et al., 2018). Both deep sleep and REM sleep also occur during naps in children.
Full-fledged sleep is important for active children functioning in the daytime and adequate formation of neurocognitive relationships. It has been proven that of the various sleep parameters, sleep continuity has been established to play a key role (Lam et al., 2011). However, despite this association’s obviousness, the data on the correlation between sleep continuity and the formation of cognitive functions are insufficient and contradictory. According to research, reasoning ability has a strong positive correlation with slow waves’ predominance during sleep (Desana et al., 2016). While the combination of slow and fast rhythms positively correlates with spatial thinking and working memory.
Despite overwhelming support for the role of SWS sleep, particularly slow-wave activity, in consolidating children’s emotional memory, recent research suggests that REM sleep also plays a role. It indicates an interaction between naps, which accounts for 42% of early-day sleep, and subsequent nighttime sleep, reinforcing memories in young children (Kurdziel et al., 2018). A day of uninterrupted wakefulness results in significant forgetfulness that could not be corrected with a night’s sleep. It addition, it was found that the child’s verbal ability positively correlated with the percentage of REM sleep over total sleep time (Kurdziel et al., 2018). Whereas it negatively correlated with the number of awakenings during sleep and the frequency of transition from stage to stage. Simultaneously, non-verbal abilities were also positively correlated with the percentage of REM sleep over total sleep time.
As a result, daytime sleep is no less important than nighttime sleep and leads to stabilization and protection of new memories from forgetting. However, further research is needed to study the associations of the sleep structure with the development of a child’s higher nervous activity functions. It will prevent the formation of cognitive impairments and, in general, increase the intellectual potential of the younger generation.
The Falling Asleep Phase
The falling asleep phase (FAP) refers to the period of time between going to bed and the onset of sleep. During the transition from wakefulness to sleep, typical physiological changes, and observable body movements occur, called stereotyped movements (Lotan & Yirmiya, 2002). The duration of FAP and its daily regularity was found to be excellent predictors of sleep problems in children in both early and late infancy.
Although children’s sleep is strongly associated with a cultural practice in which children sleep with family members, it is advisable to leave the child to sleep independently. Because according to studies, babies who fall asleep on their own are more likely to sleep through the night than those who are actively soothed by their parents, nursing, rocking, or physically calming (Lotan & Yirmiya, 2002). In reality, a child who falls asleep on his own uses soothing movements and thus calms himself and sleeps well during the night. For a long time during the FAP, the presence of parents has been mentioned in the literature as an indication for separation problems in both parent and infant. The shorter duration of soothing movements, longer duration of nonsoothing movements, and longer durations of parents’ presence in the room are associated with longer FAPs. It may be that children with longer FAPs are less able to use soothing movement, and thus parents are present in the room to try to assist them in falling asleep.
According to research, music, a bottle, or a pacifier will help the toddler fall asleep faster only if the toddler uses these with the appropriate types of soothing movements. Just sucking strongly on a pacifier, while using abrupt movements with high amplitude, for example, will not hasten to fall asleep (Lotan & Yirmiya, 2002). Furthermore, most pediatric professionals warn against using bottles in bed. It is not the bottle that assists falling asleep but the type of movement done with the bottle. In addition, in practice, the bottle’s continuous use leads to excess air swallowing, resulting in colic, which does not allow the baby to sleep. Parents may substitute the bottle with anything that enhances sucking or caressing movements.
The toddlers often develop a series of ritualistic and rhythmic movements as they fall asleep. For example, they may kick small, fast kicks with their feet, pat or caress their arm with their hand, or tap or caress their lips (Lotan & Yirmiya, 2002). In general, the role of repetitive or stereotyped movements is not fully known. Korner evaluated the comparative effects of visual, auditory, and vestibular stimulation on aroused newborns and reported that vestibular stimulation in the upright position was the most effective soothing mechanism. Other researchers said that containment and repetitive rocking had an efficacious calming effect on infants (Lotan & Yirmiya, 2002). These data suggest that repetitive stimulation of infants by their caregivers are soothing and relaxing.
Children whose movements are characterized by low amplitude and gradual slopes, such as quiet sucking or gentle caressing, will manifest relatively short FAPs, not lasting more than 30 minutes. In contrast, movements with high amplitude and abrupt slopes, such as kicking and banging, will be associated with prolonged and longer than 30 minutes FAPs (Lotan & Yirmiya, 2002). Whereas, children who fall asleep within 30 minutes and who use soothing behaviors are not different in their temperament and behavior repertoire than children who manifest less soothing behaviors.
The Consistent Routine at Night
A consistent routine at night is an important step towards turning the child into a good sleeper. It is necessary to start creating a routine with a set bedtime around four months when he gets most of sleep at night and begins to establish a more set circle (“How to establish a bedtime routine with your baby”, 2013). The environment in which children sleep directly affects the quality and quantity of sleep they receive. A child may find it difficult to fall asleep if he is agitated, sleep, and rest times change unpredictably from day to day, or if they do not feel safe. Children may also find it difficult to fall asleep if the sleeping area is hot, stuffy, noisy, brightly lit, or uncomfortable (“How to establish a bedtime routine with your baby”, 2013). It is necessary to turn off the TV, even if it provides background noise, instead of focusing on more relaxing pursuits, such as reading or listening to soothing music in a quiet room.
Like most adults, children need a calm space for sleep. It needs to choose a few activities that will signal to the child that sleep is approaching. Many parents rely on the 3 Bs: Bath, Books, and Breast (“How to establish a bedtime routine with your baby”, 2013). Some people find their babies sleep better after a light massage or during the play of soft music. Whatever the parents choose, they should be sure to put the child to bed when drowsy but not fully asleep. Children need to learn to soothe themselves to sleep, so they are not always relying on them.
Once the parents created routines, they should stick with it. Whereas if they are continually changing the childs sleep times and activities are leading up to it, they will have difficulty getting the baby to nap and sleep through the night. Aside from special occasions like holidays and vacations, it needs to be sure the child stays on schedule and follows the daily routine. The simple and playful activities are important tools in teaching-learning process of sleep as an approach for health promotion (Kim, 2017). While creating a healthy sleep habit will help the child and his parents in the long run.
The Nap in the Middle of the Daytime
Like other areas of childhood development, the nap indicates a normal pattern of early childhood development. From birth through the first years, it is common for children to sleep and wake up several times during the day and night (“Toddler parenting tips: How to get a toddler to take a nap”, 2009). Numerous people have ever wondered how to get a very busy, active toddler to take a nap in the middle of the daytime. Most children do not want to stop play, to leave what they are doing for it. However, as mentioned earlier, have a daytime sleep is essential for all the children. Some toddlers are still taking it two times a day; some need it one a day, which is acceptable when they get a little older. The most important is that the nap routine is the same every day and happens at the same time.
The parents can do with naps to make sure that leading into it and there are some quite activities. They can read a book, put on some music or an audiobook. Besides, they should make sure that the light cannot interfere with a child’s nap; therefore, put them in a room where the curtains can close (“Toddler parenting tips: How to get a toddler to take a nap”, 2009). The white noise machine is fabulous to help them sleep during the daytime to prevent hearing lawnmowers and barking dogs. All those things will help the child take a peaceful, relaxing nap. As children get older, their sleep becomes more consolidated, more often at night, and less often during the day. The need for daytime sleep gradually decreases and, for most children, stops over time. Like speech and motor development, this transition’s exact timing will be different for each child.
To summarize, full-fledged sleep, along with wakefulness, is a link in one chain in the child’s organism cycle. Currently, it is generally regarded as an active state as a complex physiological process. There is a special interdependent relationship between sleep and wakefulness. The latter’s characteristics affect the structure of subsequent sleep, and its factors determine the quality of subsequent wakefulness. It is advisable to leave the child to sleep independently because, according to studies, babies who fall asleep on their own are more probably to sleep through the night. Furthermore, most pediatric professionals warn against using bottles in bed. In addition, creating healthy sleep habits, including the nap routine, will help the child and his parents in the long run. Daytime sleep is no less important than nighttime and leads to stabilization and protection of new memories from forgetting and an overall improvement in cognitive functions. Meanwhile, studies devoted to searching for associative connections between sleep microstructure and cognitive processes development features will significantly expand the understanding of the importance of sleep for neurocognitive development in childhood.
Desana, K., Rijlaarsdam, J., Ghassabian, A., Jaddoe, V., Franco, O., Verhulst, F., & Tiemeier, H. (2016). Early childhood sleep patterns and cognitive development at age 6 years: The generation R study. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 42(3), 1-9. Web.
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Kurdziel, L.B.F., Kent, J. & Spencer, R.M.C. (2018). Sleep-dependent enhancement of emotional memory in early childhood. Nature: Scientific Reports, 8(12609), 1-10. Web.
Lam, J., Mahone, E., Thornton, B. A. M., & Scharf, S. (2011). The effects of napping on cognitive function in preschoolers. Journal of developmental and behavioral pediatrics: JDBP, 32(2), 90-97. Web.
Lotan, N., & Yirmiya, N. (2002). Body movement, presence of parents, and the process of falling asleep in toddlers. International Journal of behavioral development. 26(1), 81-88. Web.
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