Sleep is important for normal functioning of human body. We sleep for about a third of our life time (about eight hours of sleep a day). Sleep helps to restores brain and body function. Sleep evolves with developmental changes and maturation of the brain as children progress from infancy through to adolescence. Some parts of the brain are actively functioning during sleep. The typical sleep requirements vary with age and individual factors.
Full term babies typically sleep for about 16 to 18 hours a day. During sleep, you can witness some body movements, smiling, grimace, sucking movements, occasional twitch of fingers and feet. They wake to feed every three to five hours. Premature babies may sleep for about 20 hours a day. Their sleep patterns are quite irregular until about six to eight weeks.
Infants typically sleep 10-14 hours during the night. They have one to four times of day nap of 30 minutes to two-hour duration and they become fewer as they reach age one. Time spent asleep starts to diminish as infants spend more time awake, moving, rolling and learning. During the infancy period sleep routine can be established, so that the timing of the sleep periods can be made regular.
When infants are put to bed drowsy but not asleep, they are more likely to become "self- soothers" which enables them to fall asleep independently at bedtime and put themselves back to sleep during the night when they wake. Those who have become accustomed to parental assistance at bedtime often become "signalers" and cry for their parents to help them return to sleep during the night.
Between six and 12 months, infants may also experience separation anxiety, a normal developmental phase. For night time awakenings: Try not to pick up your baby, turn on the lights, sing, talk or play. All of these activities do not allow your baby to learn to fall asleep on his or her own and encourage repeat awakenings. If they can initiate sleep on their own they usually sleep through the night giving parents a good night sleep.
Parents should encourage good sleep practices from an early age. Healthy sleep habits include
Most toddlers sleep about 11 to 14 hours in a 24 hour period. At about 18 months of age, their naptimes in the day will decrease to once a day usually lasting between one and three hours. Naps should not occur too close to bedtime as they may delay sleep onset at night.
Many toddlers experience sleep problems including resisting going to bed and nighttime awakenings. Nighttime fears and nightmares are also common at this age. Comfort and hold your child at these times. Let your toddler talk about the dream if he or she wants to, and stay until your child is calm. Then encourage your child to go back to sleep as soon as possible.
Preschoolers sleep about 10 to 13 hours in a 24 hour period, with many giving up their daytime nap by the age of five years old. Bedtime struggles, nighttime awakenings and parasomnias (confusional arousals, night terrors) are common at this age. It is important to have a regular bedtime routine and a regular bedtime schedule.
School-aged children need nine to 11 hours of sleep a night. Bedtime problems can arise at this age due to several reasons, e.g. homework, sports, extracurricular, social activities, TVs, computers, video games and caffeine intake. These might delay bedtime resulting in sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep can cause emotional disturbances (e.g. mood swings), behavioural problems (e.g. hyperactivity) and cognitive problems that may impact on their ability to concentrate and learn at school.
Teenage children need about eight to 10 hours of sleep. Ideally, a teen should try to have a consistent sleep schedule on school days and non-school days. However, they may be sleep deprived because of early wake times for school, and from staying up late to do their homework, socialising with friends, etc. An insufficient amount of sleep can lead to poor attention, inability to concentrate and perform. Furthermore, some teenagers may develop a change in their 'body clock' at this age (delayed sleep phase), and have a tendency to stay up late in the night. This may affect their sleep duration on school days (when they have to wake up early for school). Catching up on sleep during the weekend may cause irregularity in their sleep schedule, and they may have difficulty waking up early when the school week starts again.
If your baby has a medical condition, there may be an exception to these recommendations. Your baby's doctor can best advise you on the right sleep position for your little one.
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