While we sleep, our bodies grow and develop. That is why it is crucial for infants and young children to get plenty of rest.
"That’s the period when their brains are growing," says Dr. Hannan Alsahlani of Southfield Pediatrics. Growth hormones are released during sleep, so it’s important children get enough quality sleep.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, an Italian study of children ages 14 and under found that 86 percent of kids who didn’t get enough sleep – less than 10 hours per night – were more accident prone.
The appropriate amount of sleep varies by age: 10 1/2 to 18 hours for newborns to 2-month-olds, 14 to15 hours for 2-month to 12-month-olds, 12 to 14 hours for 1- to 3-year-olds, 11 to 13 hours for three to five-year-olds and 10 to 11 hours for five to 12-year olds.
And you can’t forget about rest throughout the day.
"You need your naps," Dr. Alsahlani says.
Two to three naps daily are great for children ages 4 months to 1 year. Newborns will naturally sleep a bit more. Dr. Alsahlani encourages parents to allow them to do so. Don’t wake a sleeping baby, she urges.
If your children are lacking sleep, you’ll notice changes in their mood, eating habits and behavior.
"Kids are more sensitive, more irritable," Dr. Alsahlani says of sleep-deprived kids.
In an attempt to help parents have healthy, well-rested children, Dr. Alsahlani sleep trains all of her patients when they are 4 months old.
Over time, children will learn to sleep 12 hours per night.
Here’s how to do it: Do not over stimulate your child before bed by turning on the television. Give him a bath, put on his pajamas and read a book.
Put your little one down to bed before he has fallen asleep – while he is awake but drowsy and let him self-soothe.
"It is so easy to get your child to sleep through the night. You just have to be consistent with it," Dr. Alsahlani says.
If they’re well-rested, children will grow and develop better – plus, they’ll be happier.
And, as Dr. Alsahlani says, a healthy child means a happy, healthy family.