Sleep, rest and relaxation vital for young bodies and brains

Sleep, rest and relaxation can sometimes be a forgotten luxury for most parents of young children but from birth onward, rest is vital for children’s physical, neurological, social and emotional development.


Why is sleep important?

“Sleep is vital for children’s learning, development and behaviour.”

“It provides an opportunity for young minds and bodies to recuperate,” -A/Professor Susan Irvine, School of Early Childhood, Faculty of Education, Queensland University of technology.


Brains are at work

“If you think they are busy while they’re awake, you should think about when they’re asleep too, because when they’re asleep, they are consolidating or remembering what they learnt during the day, and they’re growing too,” -Professor Karen Thorpe, Centre for Children’s Health Research, Queensland University of Technology.


Sleep and rest can be tricky

It can be difficult to start a routine to allow for a quality sleep cycle and it can be hard to know how much sleep is needed. Your child will often let you know when they need more sleep, with a noticeable change in behaviour or by simply falling asleep.

All children are different and each child will sleep for different lengths of time. Findings from a recent Early Years Sleep Study, conducted by the Queensland Department of Education and Training and Queensland University of Technology, recommended R-E-S-T to help parents understand how to cater to their child’s specific sleep needs.

Regularity: Try to keep a routine for rest where possible for your child to assist them in having regular rest.

Environment: A cool, calm, quiet and darkened environment can help your child to get the rest they need.

Sleep need: Each child is different and will need different amounts of sleep and rest. Read your child’s cues and assist them in getting enough rest.

Transition: Seizing the sleep moment is really important and it’s important to have those transitions that signal it’s time to sleep. For younger children, make sure bedding, clothing and other environmental factors comply with the SIDS guidelines.


Attending to children’s individual sleep cues

Some cues are universal but every child is different so you need to learn to read your child’s cues. For example, perhaps they seek comfort or more attention when they’re feeling tired, or not.

Routine and regularity is important for children’s sleep, rest and relaxation, and very important for ongoing sleep development. It’s also a good idea to try and keep your child’s sleep routines as similar as possible, wherever they are and whoever they’re with.

Published — 12 July 2017 Last updated — 12 July 2017