8 Ways that Sleep Can Help Your Child Grow


This fascinating peek at the brain and body of your child after a good night’s rest gives you the chance to geek out.

To keep her active, you signed her up to soccer and made sure she had time to read at night. You also filled her afternoons with playdates. If you want your child to be well-rounded, it may be a good idea to streamline her day and focus only on getting to bed on time. Research is showing that adequate sleep is crucial for a child’s cognitive, physical, and emotional health. Kiran Maski M.D., a Boston Children’s Hospital pediatric neurologist and sleep physician, said Kiran Maski. Insufficient sleep has been linked to high blood pressure, obesity and insulin resistance as well as mood disorders and attention problems.

1. She has banking information.

The brain uses sleep to convert learned material into useful information. How do I tie these laces? What is 6 x 3? –into active information. It’s called ‘off-line processing’. Reut Gruber Ph.D., a Montreal psychologist and director at the Attention Behavior and Sleep Lab at Douglas Mental Health University Institute in Montreal, says that your child sort through all the information she has encountered during the day.

She gets rid of what she doesn’t need and keeps what she does.” This is why babies always nap. Everything is new to them so their brains need frequent breaks to sort and process. NYU Langone Health’s animal research suggests that deep sleep allows brain cells to learn and stimulate the development of new neural connections. This helps form long-term memories. Dr. Gruber conducted a study on children aged 7-11 and found that a good night’s rest was associated with better grades in math and languages, which are powerful predictors of academic success and later learning.


2. He is getting taller.

Your 8-year old will likely be sprouting before you know it the next time he wakes up with pains in his legs. According to Ken Noonan M.D., a pediatric orthopedicist at American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, “We believe bones do most of the growing at night.” His research on baby sheep revealed that their growth plates don’t move as much when they are standing. However, when they lie down, the pressure of their bodies is not a factor, the growth plates open. Dr. Noonan suggests that a similar phenomenon could be occurring in humans. It’s no wonder that dinosaur pjs hang shorter at breakfast than the night before. Talk to your pediatrician if your child experiences persistent leg pain.

3. She is able to bond with her family and friends.

Part of the purpose of dreams is to help us navigate our lives. They have an impact on cognition, mental and emotional health. According to Patrick McNamara Ph.D., author Nightmares, dreams can promote attachment in children. “Kids have a tendency to dream about their families, and those dreams can help them make positive emotional connections when they are awake.”

4. He is keeping his appetite in check.

The University of Colorado Boulder conducted a disturbing study in which preschoolers were denied sleep for three hours each day. They were also kept awake for up to two hours after their usual bedtime. The children consumed 21% more calories and 25% more sugar during that day of sleep loss. Even though their sleep levels returned to normal the next day, they still ate more. For all ages, research has shown that children who sleep less than an hour per night are more likely to become overweight or obese. A study of children aged 5-11 found that those who slept less then ten hours per weeknight were five times more likely to become overweight than those who slept at the least 12 hours.

Experts believe there are a few reasons for the connection. The first is that children (and adults) who get enough sleep balance the hormones that tell us to eat (ghrelin), and the one that signals us not to eat (leptin). According to Rebecca Scritchfield (R.D.N.), the author of Body Kindness, “Ghrelin is secreted when you sleep.” “When we get enough sleep, our brain produces sufficient levels of ghrelin, and leptin, which gives us normal daytime appetite regulation,” says Rebecca Scritchfield, R.D.N., author of em>Body Kindness. Hormones aside, the longer your night owl is awake, the more chances he has of raiding the pantry.

5. She is becoming more alert.

The term “executive function” refers the skills children need to get through the day. These include the ability to concentrate, manage time, recall instructions and problem-solve. It all depends on sleep. Studies show that children with ADHD perform better when given cognitive tests. According to Lisa Medalie (Psy.D.), director of The University of Chicago’s Pediatric Insomnia Program, “poor sleep quality and sleep loss can lead to problems with concentration or hyperactivity.” Dr. Medalie says that it is important to rule out any sleep issues before diagnosing ADHD.

6. His heart is getting stronger.

Children seem to be protected from high blood pressure, insulin resistance and other risk factors for heart disease by sleeping well. Although the mechanism is still unclear, research shows that a shorter amount of sleep may increase levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory biomarker, which can contribute to high blood pressure and increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Elizabeth Cespedes Feliciano (Sci.D. ), a chronic-disease epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s Division of Research, states that this could be due to the fact that less sleep leads to higher levels of C-reactive proteins.

7. Her immune system is recovering.

The doctor will not be away if your child is well rested. Your child’s brain releases chemicals at night that support the immune system. These chemicals include cytokines. They are molecules that direct immune cells towards areas of inflammation or infection. A German study proved that a single night of restful sleep after vaccinations can have a significant positive effect on human health. Subjects who slept through the night after a hepatitis A vaccination produced almost twice the immune response in four weeks than those who stayed up all night. Cortisol, a stresshormone that decreases immune activation, has been shown to be linked with shorter sleep times. This can hinder healing.

8. He is now calm.

You won’t be surprised to learn that children who are sleep deprived have more trouble getting along with other kids and are more likely to get frustrated, angry, or tantrum-y. You may not be aware that if sleep deprivation becomes a chronic condition, a child could also develop anxiety or depression later. Candice Alfano Ph.D. is a professor of psychology and director of The Sleep and Anxiety Center of Houston.

According to Dr. McNamara, two brain regions responsible for emotional regulation — the amygdala (and the ventral medial cortex)–are extremely sensitive to sleep deprivation. These areas interact with each other during sleep and engage in a conversation that will help your child understand and process any negative emotions (such as fear or anxiety) he has experienced throughout the day. Dr. McNamara says that if a child is bitten by a dog, his brain must process the experience so that he can approach dogs without fear. It must ‘de-fang’ the memory by reformatting the information in a less arousing manner. The end result is a child who can regulate his emotions not only the next day but every day.

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