WHY DO BABIES NAP
Most parents know that naps are very important for babies and young toddlers. Without naps babies become overtired and this will affect their mood and can cause behavioural issues. Babies who don’t nap well will also not learn well from their environment. Parents will often notice how much more irritable and fussy a baby becomes when a nap has been missed. Being overtired will also affect their ability to fall asleep at night.
Research has shown that naps are not only needed for physical restoration but are also beneficial towards learning language and turning short- term memories into long-term memories. While taking a nap, events of the day are processed in the brain and learning takes place by creating new neural connections in the brain. Brain synapses are formed during sleep and more than 1.000.000 million neural connections are formed per second during the first 3 years of life.
But why do babies nap needs vary for different ages? Sleep are driven by 2 body systems. One is the circadian rhythm which is an internal process controlles by the body clock and involves changes in hormone levels and temperature fluctuations through out the day and night regulating when we sleep and when we wake. The other system is the homeostatic sleep drive and this is mainly the reason why babies nap. The homeostatic sleep drive is caused by an increase of a chemical in the brain called adenosine. With every minute that we are awake, adenosine levels in the brain increase and cause sleep pressure. Very young babies have a very low tolerance for a rise in adenosine in the brain, consequently needing frequent naps. As babies grow and get older they can tolerate higher levels of adenosine and therefore need they need to nap less frequently.
Respecting your baby’s need to nap will help with your baby’s brain development and physical growth. Your baby will outgrow the need to nap around 3-5 years old. It is always best to organise activities during the day so it doesn’t interfere with your baby’s naps. You will have a happier and healthier baby and your days will become very predictable.
Sleep is a biological need. It is not a luxury or a selfish want. We all need sleep as much as we need food and water. Sleep deprivations has been linked to an increase in depression, anxiety and relationship difficulties. The causes of postnatal depression (PND) are...
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SUN AND SLEEP
A dark sleep enviroment is essential for Melatonin production. Melatonin is your sleep hormone and can only be efficiently produced in darkness.
But did you know that sun or natural light exposure is equally important to ensure a good night’s rest for both you and your baby?
Sunshine plays a role in regulating hormones adn sleep patterns. Melatonin and serotonin are two important hormones that help to regulate sleep patterns, mood and appetite.
Melatonin is commonly known as the sleep hormone and it can only be efficiently produced in a dark sleep environment. But without exposure to natural light during the day your body may not be able to produce enough melatonin at night.
For Melatonin to be produced, your body needs serotonin. Serotonin is a precursor to melatonin. Serotonin is stimulated and produced in natural sunlight.
So even though these two hormones are in some ways opposite with one being produced in darkness and the other one in light, they work together to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Exposing your baby to natural sunlight first thing in the moring by opening the blinds and letting in as much sunlight is a great way to set the body clock and to ensure serotonin production. Better yet, expose your baby to open air outside and allow for as much outdoor play while protecting your baby from sunburn. Exposure to natural light before midday and late afternoon when the uv index is not so high will help your whole family to sleep better at night.
Exposure to sunlight will also boost you and your baby’s mood and can induce feelings of satisfaction and calmness and lower anxiety and depression levels.
So get out there and enjoy a bit of sunshine!
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT”
Do you know that nobody actually sleeps through the night?
We all have partial awakenings througout the night when we transition from one sleep cycle to the next. Sometimes we will remember these awakenings and other times we won’t.
So when we talk about sleeping through the night, we actually mean that a baby is able to transition through sleep cycles and partial awakenings effortlessly without needing help from a parent.
If your baby is waking frequently during the night and the only way that you can get him back to sleep is by feeding, rocking or cuddling him back to sleep, your baby is having fragmented sleep and so are you. Even though these methods are normal and desirable to use for newborns, as babies get older these methods become less effective and can hinder a baby’s ability to sleep instead of helping.
The way babies sleep is very much a combination of nature and nurture. Some babies naturally sleep well from an early age and others are not naturally good sleepers. However, how we respond to night wake ups can often contribute to our babies sleep issues.
Teaching our babies to fall asleep independently will help them to have less fragmented sleep and consolidate longer chunks of sleep which is healthy for their growing minds and bodies.
Untraining old habits of rocking and feeding to sleep is what we do when we do sleep training. Retraining babies how to fall asleep is part of sleep training. Becoming an independent sleeper is ultimately how babies learn to sleep well in the long term.