With summer’s extended daylight hours, it may be tempting to stay up if there is daylight to get just one more project finished and then wake up at the crack of dawn to begin another day. Research from the National Sleep Foundation shows it’s important to put a good night’s sleep at the top of your list of priorities for the following reasons:

• While you sleep, your brain is hard at work forming the pathways necessary for learning and creating memories and new insights. Sleep plays an important role in memory and learning, both before and after learning a new task.

• Persons getting more sleep get sick less frequently. Lack of sleep causes your immune system to become run down and makes you more susceptible to the common cold, flu, and other upper respiratory infections.

• Accidents are less likely. Inadequate sleep impairs judgment and decision-making. It elevates the risk of serious accidents and injury, both with driving and in the workplace.

• People with enough sleep get along with others well. Not getting enough sleep leads to aggressive or inappropriate behavior, such as yelling or impatience. Sleep affects mood, motivation, judgment, and perception of events.

• They are less likely to be overweight. Lack of sleep causes overeating and or eating unhealthy foods, like sweets, and fried foods which leads to weight gain.

The following are some mythbusters about children and sleep:

Myth No. 1: Put your baby to sleep on his or her stomach.

FACT: Your baby needs to be put to sleep on his or her back. According to the “Back to Sleep” program, this lowers the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that parents avoid placing their child to sleep on a water bed, sofa, pillow, soft mattress or other soft surfaces.

Myth No. 2: Parents should wait until a baby is fully asleep before putting him or her to bed.

FACT: Your baby should be put to bed when drowsy, rather than asleep. This encourages your baby to fall asleep on their own. When your baby can soothe himself or herself to sleep, if awakened will be able to fall back asleep on his or her own more easily. It takes time and practice for most babies to develop this skill. It is good practice to lay your drowsy baby down. Then if your baby is startled, pick your baby up until he or she falls back to sleep completely. Then lay the baby down again.

Myth No. 3: Children will sleep longer at night if they do not take a nap.

FACT: Both naps and nighttime sleep for your child are necessary and independent of one another. If your child naps well, he or she is usually less cranky and sleep better at night. Although children differ, naps of 45 minutes to three hours in duration are expected after six months of age. Naps may continue to age five.

Myth No. 4: Babies on solid foods sleep longer.

FACT: The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages feeding your baby solid foods including adding cereal to a baby’s bottle before four months of age. His or her immature digestive system cannot handle solid foods. It is normal for a baby that is younger than 6 months to wake during the night to feed.

Arianna Huffington, in “The Sleep Revolution,” writes that getting sleep is less about tool and techniques and more about a transforming mindset shift.

“To be able to leave the outside world behind each night when we go to sleep, we need to first recognize that we are more than our struggles and more than our victories and failures,” she said. “We are not defined by our jobs and titles, and we are vastly more than our resumes. By helping us keep the world in perspective, sleep gives us a chance to refocus on the essence of who we are.”

For more evidence-based research on sleep go to: sleepfoundation.org or sleepforkids.org.

Sandy Block-Hansen is the St. Francis Healthcare Campus Family Footprints Coordinator, a Catholic Health Initiative Mission and Ministry program created to support, inform, and offer resources to parents in the role of parenting. She can be reached at sandrablock-hansen@catholichealth.net or 218-643-0475.

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