Friday, February 9, 2018

The Importance of Sleep for Babies and Parents

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by Jenna Brown

Sleep is something most of us wish we could get more of on a daily basis. As more things are added to the to-do list we tend to sacrifice shuteye. Research is now showing that could be a huge mistake.
For hundreds of years, health experts have tried to unravel the mystery of sleep. More precisely, they’ve tried to nail down why people need sleep and what occurs while we slumber. What they have discovered is that sleep is essential for our health at all stages of life. For babies, sleep can influence their physical growth, weight and much more.

Why Sleep is Vital for Growing Babies
Researchers may not know everything that happens during sleep, but they do know that it impacts a child’s development starting in infancy. Many hormones are connected to sleep. For example, sleep deprivation can decrease the hormone leptin, which signals that we’re full and should stop eating. This can increase the risk of obesity in children and babies.

During sleep, our bodies also produce more illness fighting proteins. Sleeping the majority of the day helps newborns fight off illness as they get used to the environment outside of the womb.

Learning is another reason to make sure baby gets ample shuteye. While your baby is sleeping their brain is busy learning and taking things in from the immediate surroundings.

Newborns need up to 18 hours of sleep a day. Once babies are four months old they still need 12-16 hours of sleep split between nighttime sleeping and naps.

Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Choose a Safe Crib Mattress - Sleep safety starts with the right crib mattress. It should be firm, free of chemicals and fit the crib so there are no gaps.

Use Onesies Instead of Sheets - Babies want to be warm and swaddled when they sleep, but sheets pose a serious risk. Instead of covering your baby with blankets, put them to bed in a onesie that covers the feet.

Stick to a Sleeping Schedule - As hard as it may be to do some days, the best way to ensure your baby is sleeping soundly is to stick to a sleeping schedule. Babies as young as 2-4 months can get accustomed to a nap schedule as long as you’re consistent. Having a bedtime routine also helps establish a sleep schedule.

Allow your baby to coax herself to sleep. Resist the urge to always coax your baby to sleep yourself. In the first 2-4 weeks that may be necessary, but after that start working on laying them down and letting them go to sleep on their own.

The Importance of Parental Rest
Parents need adequate sleep for all the reasons noted above and then some. There are two primary reasons why all parents should make sleep a top priority:
Sleep deprivation can be dangerous - period. Being sleep deprived is like being drunk. Your judgment is shot, coordination goes out the window and you’re much more likely to have an accident.

Your mood will take a major nosedive. Many couples say that the most difficult period was the year after having their first child. I’m convinced sleep deprivation has a lot to do with it. Stress levels are already high as you try to figure out how to care for a small delicate human being. Chronic sleep deprivation will compound the situation by increasing your risk of anxiety and depression.

Coping with a crying baby at night can make sleep difficult, but it is doable.

For starters, use the advice above to make sure your baby is sleeping well. The more soundly they sleep, the easier it is for you to get rest.

Take steps to adjust your schedule as much as you can during the first 6 months when babies wake up more frequently to eat or get changed. Ask if you can temporarily switch to a flex schedule after your maternity leave is up. Working from home is even better since you can create a sleep and work schedule based on when your baby sleeps.

Remember, this is a brief period that requires a lot of flexibility. The more you can mitigate the unpredictability the better rested you’ll be.

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