The Importance of Sleep for Babies & Toddlers

The importance of sleep for babies and toddlers

A baby sleeping with older brother

We all know how detrimental a bad night’s sleep can can be to our general wellbeing. At the very least, it can make the following day a real struggle, perhaps make us feel irritable and certainly leave us underperforming. With this in mind, we thought we’d take a look at how sleep affects babies, toddlers and under-fives. It will be no surprise to hear that a good night’s sleep is even more important for the early years age group.

What are the benefits of a good night’s sleep to children?

Sleep has enormous benefits to the young and old and it has been the subject of many studies. Young children who get a decent night’s sleep are shown to:

  • be happier, have better moods and be more resilient;
  • have better attention spans;
  • be more alert;
  • have improved learning capacity and cognitive performance;
  • have better memory skills (e.g. improved vocabulary acquisition);
  • have improved development of motor skills;
  • have improved mental and physical health;
  • be less likely to be withdrawn, stressed or anxious;
  • have a reduced likelihood of developing high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and depression.
  • What’s more, children’s growth hormone is produced when the child is asleep. This is essential for healthy growth and function of the child’s body, particularly during early infancy.
  • Other hormone levels change when you sleep and this can help with anything from skin repair to muscle mass and even changes to body weight.

A very sleepy toddlerThese are significant benefits, so high quality sleep — and the right amount — is incredibly important.

“A quarter of children under the age of 5 don’t get adequate sleep” (National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information)

How much sleep should young children and babies get?

Studies suggest the following recommendations when it comes to the number of hours of sleep that children should regularly receive during their early years …

Recommended sleep time
  • 4-12 months old: 12-16 hours of sleep (per 24 hours, including naps)
  • 1-2 years old: 11-14 hours of sleep (per 24 hours, including naps)
  • 3-5 years old: 10-13 hours of sleep (per 24 hours, including naps)

Source: Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) / The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM)¹

Sleep Hygiene

Under-five toddler asleep with mumSleep Hygiene‘ is a term that refers to the whole routine around bedtime and sleeping, including important preparation measures during the run-up to bedtime A good sleep hygiene regime will help children get to sleep and to sleep soundly.

Parents can help to optimise children’s sleep quality in a number of ways:

  • Caffeine is a stimulant, so encourage children to limit their intake during the day and completely avoid it from lunchtime onwards. It can be found in hot drinks like tea and coffee as well as cold drinks including energy drinks and fizzy drinks like coke.
  • Conversely, a drink of warm milk in the evening before bedtime can have a soothing effect and help a child to get settled, ready to sleep.
  • Avoid giving children large meals too close to bedtime, as these can stop them from getting to sleep.
  • Exercise can play a big part in a child’s sleep pattern but it needs to be approached in the right way. While exercising vigorously soon before bed can lead to problems getting to sleep, exercising during the day can burn off excess energy and help children sleep well once it comes to bedtime later on. Some fresh air in the evening (for example, a leisurely outdoor walk) can also help children to feel sleepy once they get home.
  • Children’s bedrooms should have the right set-up. For example, they should not have access to anything that might stimulate their brains in the run-up to sleeping. Toys could be an unwanted distraction from sleep if present, however screens (TVs, handheld tablets, mobile phones etc.) should be totally avoided several hours before bedtime. Not only do they distract from sleeping but screens have also been shown to stimulate the brain even after they’ve been switched off — greatly hindering sleep.
  • Bedrooms should also be away from noisy areas of the house and the room should also be a comfortable, but slightly cool, temperature.
  • Children’s rooms should also be suitably lit to suit the child in question. Some young children sleep best in total darkness while others may sleep better if there is a night light in or close to their bedroom.
  • Giving them a suitable cuddly toy may also help them to feel more safe and secure.
  • Children should also be encouraged to visit the toilet immediately before bed. Doing so decreases the chances of them having to interrupt their sleep for a visit to the loo during the night.
  • Baby monitors are also useful so long as the child doesn’t end up using them simply as a way to communicate with parents in another room.
  • If children leave their bedrooms to seek out parents during the night, it’s a good idea to quietly lead them back to their beds, without debate where possible, and to be consistent about it. Otherwise, a precedent is set and they might do it more and more often. Such a habit would be detrimental to their sleep pattern. It’s important to be consistent and not to ‘cave in’ to the child, even if they try to be with parents repeatedly throughout the night. They’ll eventually get the message and their overall sleep pattern will benefit from doing so.

Preschoolers get tired tooThe biggest message is that setting up — and sticking to — a set bedtime routine will greatly help with the quality of your child’s sleep. It sets a pattern that their minds and bodies will become used to naturally. A regime of this nature can include winding-down activities like a warm bath or shower, a peaceful book-reading session, dimmed lights and so on in the approach to bedtime. The routine will prepare them automatically for sleep even during the run-up to actually sleeping.

Important Side Note: The importance of sleeping position when babies are in the womb

Aside from the obvious positive effects of sleep on children and adults, one surprising aspect of sleep has a direct impact on the wellbeing of unborn babies. Statistics suggest that the sleeping position of the parent can have a direct bearing on the foetus’s chance of survival. This is important stuff! According to NHS Start 4 Life², mothers-to-be should try to sleep on their sides, when possible, by the 28th week of pregnancy. Doing so will statistically reduce the risk of the baby being stillborn. Of course, once asleep, it’s only natural for you to move around into different positions, so the message is not to worry unduly if you wake up on your back when pregnant — it’s totally normal for this to happen. Simply go onto your side before returning back to sleep. Bending your knees will help you get comfortable on your side, facilitate easier breathing and put less pressure on your uterus. As an added bonus, it also helps to alleviate backache.

Sleep at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

Babies take at least two naps at Little Cedars nursery, StreathamAt Little Cedars Day Nursery in Streatham, we understand the importance of sleep, particularly for babies and the youngest of the children. For that reason, we ensure that children have the opportunity of a nap both in the morning and in the afternoon. For example, babies sleep for about half an hour to an hour around 9.30am and then again after lunch, for 1 to 2 hours between about 1pm and 3pm. Preschoolers don’t have to sleep if they don’t want to, but are given the opportunity to do so — every child is different. We also take a lead from parents who may prefer their child to keep to a particular sleep pattern. If you would like more information about this topic, and how we approach it at the nursery, please do get in touch.

Contact Little Cedars Day Nursery

Little Cedars Day Nursery offers weekday childcare services in Streatham, London SW16, for babies (from 6 months) and children aged up to 5 years old. We’re based in Aldrington Road, so are convenient for anyone looking for a nursery or pre-school in and around Streatham, Streatham Park, Tooting Bec, Tooting Common, Furzedown and Balham. Call 020 8677 9675 for more details. You can also request more details, send us an email or arrange a visit here, so we can show you around the nursery.

Please note that this article is for general guidance only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are at all concerned about your child’s sleep, health or wellbeing, please seek advice from your child’s doctor or health professional.

Our Anti-COVID Measures as we Re-open the Nursery

Our Anti-COVID Measures as we Re-open the Nursery
On  June 1st, we re-opened Little Cedars Nursery at its Aldrington Road setting in Streatham, London SW16 1TU. Our thanks go to staff at our sister nursery, Beechcroft Nursery, for joining forces with us during the lock-down, to look after children of key workers alongside us. It’s wonderful to be back, though, as we can welcome old faces and new to our Streatham nursery and pre-school.

In view of the Government only recently easing the lock-down restrictions and with coronavirus still potentially at large, we have implemented stringent new health and safety measures at the nursery. These are being implemented to safeguard the health and wellbeing of babies, children, parents and staff.

“Everyone’s health is our topmost priority.”

Health & safety measures to keep you & your child safe from COVID-19

Here, we’ll outline what we are doing to keep you, you child and everyone at the nursery safe and well. These measures go well beyond Government guidelines and may be of comfort to those parents who are, understandably, a little nervous of sending their little ones back to nursery or pre-school so soon after lock-down.

Social distancing & extensive use of outdoor spaces

Moving much of the curriculum to our large outdoor areas will significantly reduce the risks that would otherwise be associated with more confined, indoor spaces. Outside, children are naturally going to have more room to themselves and the air they breathe will be cleaner – and will disperse to the atmosphere naturally. And, of course, we are ensuring everyone maintains good social distancing generally. Outside, we have made sure that there are sufficient covered areas outside to protect children and staff from the weather.

Small ‘bubble’ groups

We are also keeping babies and children within small ‘bubble’ groups. This will ensure that they are mixing with only a tiny number of individuals on a day-to-day basis. This vastly reduces the risks of catching contagions from one another. The bubble groups will be a size of 3, 4 or 6 children, depending upon the age group they fall into.

Limited numbers

Another excellent safeguarding measure is to limit the number of people attending the setting. For this reason, we will not take the nursery to full capacity while coronavirus is still at large. Again, this ensures that children and staff mix with as few people as possible.

Temperature checking

Temperatures of staff and children will be checked from time to time, as appropriate, using zero-contact electronic thermometers. That will allow us to get the earliest indication should someone begin to exhibit symptoms. We would then be able to take appropriate action i.e. to ensure that the symptomatic person isolates themselves at home rather than continuing to attend the nursery.

Track & Trace

In the unlikely event that anyone at the nursery does begin to exhibit possible symptoms of coronavirus, we will follow the Government’s Track & Trace policy. Anyone affected will be asked to take a test. They and their ‘bubble’ group will be required to self-isolate until the potential danger has passed. This will minimise the risk of the virus spreading to others.

New drop-off & collection rules for parents

We are asking parents to stagger their drop-off and collection times so that they encounter the minimum number of other people whilst doing so. Parents will not be granted entry to the nursery at the current time, so they must remain outside. While waiting, they will be required to keep a minimum of 2 metres away from others at all times.

New safety protocols for staff

Along with orchestrating the measures above, nursery staff will also be taking additional steps as part of their day-to-day precautions. These include:

  • Liberal use of antimicrobial wipes for equipment, surfaces, door handles, toys, etc.;
  • A change of clothes when they first arrive at the nursery in the morning, to ensure uniforms are fresh;
  • free of bacteria and viruses;
  • Wearing of face shields and double-gloving when changing nappies;
  • Wearing of top quality, medically approved ‘FPP3’ face masks whenever appropriate.

Special precautions for food and snacks

Our in-house chefs are already taking additional precautions when preparing food for the children. As well as the standard hygiene protocols that one would expect, the new measures include the wearing of masks and face visors when preparing food. This keeps meals and snacks pristine.

These measures put the health and safety of children, parents and staff first. We hope they put your mind at rest if you were at all tentative about your baby or child attending (or re-attending if you’re one of our existing families). Do, of course, get in contact with us if you’d like further reassurance.

Does your baby or child need childcare in the Streatham area?

If your baby or child needs a nursery/preschool place in the Streatham area of south-west London, we would be very happy to discuss this with you. We’d welcome the opportunity of telling you more details about the exceptional childcare services at the nursery, our ethos and all the amazing facilities available. Call 020 8677 9675 or email our manager here. We’ll be delighted to hear from you.