When it comes to children, it seems like they can sleep all day. You just have to look at babies to know that sleep is essential to their development. Babies can sleep for 16-18 hours a day when they’re first born. As they get older, they sleep less, but they will need rest more frequently. They’ll have naps during the day to be able to handle the rest of whatever life throws at them.
But why is this sleep so important? Just what is it about growing children that requires extra sleep throughout the day? Here’s a look at everything you need to know about sleep and child development.
A baby is still developing elements of their bodies when they are born. The immune system continues to develop, even into adult years. While there are some vaccinations out there – I know, a debated subject – there are plenty of illnesses that there is no protection from. Parents hope that their children have the immune system to fight it all off.
Sleep definitely helps with this process. During sleep, children produce cytokines, a type of protein. The body needs this to be able to fight off illnesses and infections. The proteins are produced more during illnesses to help promote sleep and encourage anyone to sleep more to fight off the illness.
There is a cycle that Mother Nature has created to ensure our bodies fight off infections as much as possible instead of succumbing to them.
Children who don’t get that much sleep will find that their levels of cytokines are diminished. This means the body isn’t able to fight off infections as well and it can impact adults later in life.
There aren’t so many studies conducted on babies and children, but there are some on teenagers. Teenagers who didn’t get enough sleep on a night had more illnesses, whether serious or just bouts of the common cold.
It shouldn’t be surprising that lack of sleep also brings on exhaustion. The whole body is more open to infection and disease because the body is currently dealing with the exhaustion that is set in.
At the same time, sleep makes a person clumsier. You just have to think about what you’re like when you don’t get enough sleep. You tend to stagger around and bump into walls. For children, this can mean something more serious. Remember that children are more likely to take risks and have mood swings because of their tiredness. Well, this can lead to more chance of injuries, since they take risks but don’t have the balance to follow them through!
The bones are also weaker due to lack of growth hormone getting the chance to work with the body. The body may not have taken in all the nutrients through food, so the bones aren’t getting enough calcium, either. Both of these linked with the clumsiness can lead to bones breaking and other more serious injuries.