This post is Part 2 in a four-part series on how rest, nutrition, and a healthy home life help babies, toddlers, and preschoolers grow into healthy, successful kindergarten students. You can read the first post here.
Research shows that rest plays a big role in a child’s mental, emotional, and physical development. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) says that sleep improves learning, helps children pay attention, and aids in creative thinking.
Children who don’t get enough rest, according to the NHLBI, may have trouble getting along with others, and might struggle to stay awake and pay attention in school. (Source)
When children live in lower socioeconomic environments, these problems are compounded. The American Psychological Association (APA) says that children living in lower socioeconomic conditions suffer more from lost sleep than kids do who live in middle-class or upper-class homes:
“Social class moderated the link between children’s sleep and cognitive functioning on standardized ability tests. Children of middle and lower class had similar performance when sleep was optimal, but when sleep was poor, lower SES children’s cognitive performance suffered.” (Source)
It’s not surprising that poor sleep affects a child’s alertness the next day. It’s more surprising to learn that research shows a correlation between poor sleep patterns now and a child’s academic performance two years later. Children who sleep in early childhood are more likely to be successful when they start school years later.
Parents Can Help Young Children to Sleep Well
A number of factors contribute to poor sleep in young children. Some of those factors, like minimizing cigarette smoke in the home, are relatively easy for parents to control. Factors like reducing family conflict, however, might be more difficult to address.
The APA recommends that parents pay attention to the physical environment a child sleeps in, as well as to the psychological environment around them. Physical things like a comfortable bed affect sleep, but it’s also affected by more complex factors like family conflict:
“Clean, comfortable bedding, adequate heating and cooling, and reduction of airborne toxins (e.g. tobacco smoke; allergens) all facilitate good sleep. In the psychosocial realm, parental management of bedtimes, monitoring of caffeine, restricting media use, noise abatement and reducing precipitators of anxiety (e.g. family conflict), are all ways to improve sleep.” (Source)
Getting a good night’s rest is critical for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to grow into healthy kindergarteners who are mentally, physically, and emotionally ready to start school.
Rest isn’t the only critical ingredient to good health during the first five years. In our next post, we’ll take a look at the importance of nutrition. Come back for the next post in this four-part series on early childhood development.
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