The Quick Fact answer to whether or not sleep can make your child smarter is in fact, YES.
- Sleep is food for your child’s brain. (Weissbluth, 2003) Especially for young children- Sleep is to their brains what food is to their bodies. You would never deprive your child of food or postpone their meals when they are clearly hungry because of social engagements or scheduling issues. The same principle should be applied to sleep. The occasional fluke won’t cause a long reaching impact but continuous sleep schedule changes and foreign sleep environments (i.e. anywhere other than their usual/typical sleep space) can pack a punch in the amount of mentally restorative sleep your child is getting.
- An appropriate and consistent sleep environment is very important, especially for little ones over 2 months of age. You probably wouldn’t continually feed your child junk food or grab whatever happens to be around for them to eat; the same principle should be applied to where they sleep. Children who are not consistently sleeping in their usual sleep space will incur “junk sleep,” this is fragmented, non-restorative sleep that will accrue to create a sleep debt. Again, the occasional fluke won’t have a far-reaching impact but in order for your child to receive their optimal amount of non-fragmented sleep it’s important for them to sleep in a consistent and appropriate environment.
- Continuous sleep inconsistencies can have far reaching impacts on your child’s cognitive development. Studies have shown that toddlers who were poor sleepers and had poor sleep habits “performed more poorly on neurodevelopmental tests when they were 6 years old” (Touchette et al 2007). The same research even found that “this was true even for kids whose sleep improved after age 3. The researchers speculate that there may be a “critical period” in early childhood, when the effects of sleep restriction are especially harmful” (Touchette et al 2007).
- Sleep shaping education for infants is a great way to lay a solid foundation for future sleep training. Sleep training will help your child sleep through the night, every night, which has been empirically proven to be an invaluable part of their cognitive, not to mention physical and general development.
Stay Tuned for tomorrow’s Free Tip Tuesday where we will debunk 5 common sleep-training myths!