From the moment you become a parent, sleep – whether it’s how much you and your baby are or are not getting – can dominate your every waking moment. But considering how much we talk about it, it’s surprising we don’t know more about it.
A recent survey by the Sleep Council found that almost half of parents didn’t know a three-year-old needed 12 hours sleep every night. “Parents often don’t realise how important sleep is for children,” says sleep expert Dr Neil Stanley. “These days, with televisions and computers, children are constantly stimulated. There’s a presumption that if your child isn’t awake, she’s missing out when, in fact, unless she gets enough sleep, children can’t make sense of being awake.”
So how can you help a reluctant sleeper realise how important a good night’s sleep is? “Children are already taught about the benefits of nutrition and exercise, but sleep is just as important, if not more so,” says Dr Stanley. “Sleep is the time when children process information, assimilate information from the day and physically grow.”
So what is the answer to ensuring your child gets the perfect night’s sleep? “It’s all about having a restful bedtime routine,” explains Dr Stanley. “So switch off electronic items, give your child a bath and read a story. This will prepare body and mind for sleep.”
And once your child is finally asleep, just what is going on behind those flickering eyelids? Although they may not be terribly exciting, it’s likely that your child’s dreams are sweet ones. Dr Robin Campbell, Lecturer in Psychology at Stirling University, found that very young children’s dreams are mostly of a peaceful nature, featuring static, bland images and often animals. So that’s what dreams are made of.
This article previously appeared in Junior magazine as a print article