The Importance of Sleepby Meagan Ledendecker
Although this may not be the time of year when we're thinking about getting a good night sleep, the holiday break from routine can provide an opportunity for families to establish some good sleep habits.
When our children are young, they are developing their personalities and striving for independence, which also means they need to test limits and see what they can achieve.
Often this increased willfulness can lead to sleep struggles (namely with nap times and bedtimes).
What our young children don't know, though, is that their developing brains really need sleep! Lost sleep is cumulative. Marc Weissbluth, M.D. writes in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, about the effects of sleep deprivation:
"If children have constant amounts of sleep deficits, do they show these same escalating problems during the day? Yes! I believe the young child's brain is as sleep-sensitive as, if not more so than, an adult's. It is also possible that severe or chronic sleep deficits occurring early during the period of rapid brain growth might hard-wire circuits to produce permanent effects."
A study posted on the National Sleep Foundation's website explains the short-term effects. Two- to three-year-olds who miss a single nap show “more anxiety, less joy and interest, and a poorer understanding of how to solve problems.”
Both Richard Ferber, M.D., and Marc Weissbluth, M.D., share simple steps in their respective books:
and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.
In implementing a new approach to help our children get a healthy amount of sleep, keep in mind Weissbluth's practical tips to not confuse these issues:
As parents and educators we want our children to have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential. Having a firm and loving plan in place for sleep routines is a gift you can give your child that will last a lifetime.
Meagan Ledendecker grew up in a Montessori school with two Montessori teachers and administrators as parents. She has an M.S. in Environmental Education, has taught in the public school system, and provided numerous professional development workshops for teachers. Meagan pursued Montessori teacher training after the birth of her first child, and co-founded The Montessori School of the Berkshires with her husband. She now serves as the Director of Education and has three children who attend the school.