Rebecca Kempton, M.D.
Baby Sleep Pro
Sleep is as important a biological function as breathing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, sleep seems even more important because of its wide-ranging physical and psychological benefits.
With so many normal routines disrupted, it is more important than ever to ensure both you and your little ones are getting sufficient sleep.
Here are 5 reasons why sleep is so important for you and your family, and especially so during these unsettling times:
- Immune function: In a time when warding off infection is even more crucial, getting optimal sleep can strengthen the immune system which helps fight infections. Some studies have even shown that lack of sleep can make vaccines less effective.
- Brain function: During sleep, neural connections are made which helps cement learning and creating memories. Many studies have shown that children who get sufficient sleep are better problem solvers, more creative and flexible thinkers, and have greater academic success. Conversely, sleep deprivation interferes with memory acquisition, making learning and retaining new things almost impossible. When well rested, we are able to more easily adapt to changing circumstances, stay sharp, learn and retain information, and make complex decisions more effectively.
- Mood: Young children and babies have an especially low tolerance for lack of sleep, causing them and everyone around them to be irritable. As a parent, ensuring sufficient sleep helps you regulate your own mood to better help your children as well.
- Behavior: Anyone with a toddler who woke up a little too early, stayed up a little too late, or missed a nap knows the dreaded consequences: whines that escalate into supersonic, ear-shattering, teeth-jarring screams that make you want to run away. The New England Center for Pediatric Psychology has coined the term Faux ADHD to describe children who have been diagnosed with ADHD, but whose behaviors are in fact directly linked to detrimental sleep behaviors. In up to 35 percent of cases, sleep deprivation is misdiagnosed as ADHD.
- Mental health: Besides depression, studies have found that a lack of sleep is linked with mental health conditions like anxiety, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Although it may seem daunting to maintain healthy sleep habits with so many other day-to-day challenges, try to take small steps to help you and your children get enough sleep so that your family stays well-rested and healthy.
Here are some tips for establishing or maintaining healthy sleep habits in unsettling times:
- Establish consistent sleep schedules and routines for you and your little ones
- Ensure your baby is getting sufficient naps during the day. Sufficient sleep during the day can improve sleep at night.
- Establish a consistent sleep time routine for both you and your baby. This can include, reading, singing songs, or a gentle massage for baby. For you, leave enough time for ample wind-down time, which can include reading, meditation, or gentle stretching.
- Maintain a regular bed and wake time for yourself and your baby. Choose a set bedtime and wake time. This may mean setting an alarm.
- It can also be helpful to regulate daytime routines like choosing set times to eat meals, get dressed, and exercise.
- Get exercise, fresh air and natural light
- Exercise and fresh air make us all feel and sleep better, and natural light help regulate our daily rhythm clock.
- Schedule a regular time to get outside for a walk. Early morning hours tend to be less crowded on the streets, making it a great time for a stroll.
- If outdoor exercise is not possible, try an exercise app or just some stretching or running in place at home.
- When inside, open the blinds and try to be near a window if working or playing with your baby.
- Limit screen time.
- This can be challenging since work and school from home require more screen time than we are all used to. The blue light from screens, TVs, tablets, computers, and phones prevents the release of melatonin, the internal sleep hormone which in turn makes it difficult to fall into sleep. As much as possible, avoid screens for both you and your child within 1-2 hours of bedtime.
Check out Mediaplanet’s customized playlist, guaranteed to help ease the mind and body so you can get good night’s sleep. Don’t believe us? GIve it a listen and see for yourself.