Your baby sleeping in complete contentment is one of the most relaxing and beautiful things to watch. Seeing how he dozes off into dream land and watching his angelic face smile as he reaches dream world is just as satisfying.
Sleeping plays a crucial role in the development of your baby – as sleep helps your baby learn and put into perspective all that they have experienced and discovered throughout the day.
Experiencing sleep deprivation makes you understand the very importance of sleep, but for your baby sleep is even more vital. Minor sleep loss over a period of time can affect a child’s behaviour, health and the ability to learn. You may think that your baby simply falls asleep when he’s tired, to give his body a rest and his brain the chance to switch off from the external world - far from it.
Brain learns during sleep
When your baby is sound asleep, his brain is actively learning. Scientists have been able to study brain activity during sleep and have discovered that specific parts of the brain are actually most active during sleep.
The state of lowered consciousness and reduced physical activity, enable your baby’s brain to carry out vital jobs that cannot be accomplished as effectively during wakefulness.
While your baby is sleeping, they’re not busy taking in everything that’s going on around them, the way they would when awake. Sleep allows your baby’s brain a chance to turn its attention to the important job of consolidating memory and learning. During his wakeful hours, your baby has various experiences, many of them new. His brain stores numerous different impressions of what he hears, feels, sees, does and smells that will need to be further organised during sleep-time.
Sleep is a very important part of your baby’s life and shouldn’t be interfered with. It helps them to grow and develop into the people that they are to become. Remember that your baby needs enough rest to stimulate his growth and development and when this is achieved, your baby can reach his full potential.
Time flies by so quickly and before you know it, your baby will soon be a toddler, then a teenager. Although you are feeling deprived from sleep and perhaps frustrated at times, learn to enjoy and cherish the special, once-in-a-lifetime moments, when you can quietly cradle your little one or just watch their heavenly faces when asleep.
Case study: Did you know?
Interestingly, it is research on the brains of baby birds that provided scientists with vital clues to the role of sleep in brain development. The chicks being studied were in the early process of learning the natural song of their species. They naturally do so by copying their mother bird's vocalisations. In the experiment itself, the baby birds heard and copied a taped recording of their mother's song.
The researchers designed two different learning conditions for the chicks. One group of chicks practised their tweeting and then were isolated from all noise for a period of rest during which they stayed awake.
In the second case, the group of baby birds also had a silent break following their singing practice, but this time the interval was used to induce sleep.
What the study found
What the scientists discovered was astonishing. The baby birds that had slept between practice sessions were able to produce a much more accurate song at the next session than those who had stayed awake during their resting time.
The researchers had also measured the birds' brain activity throughout the experiment. All the brains were very active when actually mimicking their mothers' song. When it came to the break when the recording was switched off, however, the two groups differed. The baby birds that remained awake immediately reduced their brain activity when it was time to rest.
The sleeping birds, by contrast, showed sustained levels of high activity in the brain while they slept, just as if they were singing silently in their sleep or still listening to and processing their mothers' song. In other words, the findings suggest that, while they slept, this second group of chicks was consolidating what they had just learnt about their mothers' song and committing the details to memory.
The chicks who stayed awaked between practice sessions did not get a chance to do this, so learnt the song more slowly. So, next time you are lucky enough to hear a nightingale, remember that it was sleep that helped its song become so beautiful.
Here are three other things to remember about the importance of sleep for your baby:
1. Some parts of your baby’s brain are even more active during sleep
2. When your baby sleeps his eyes and ears rest
3. Your baby needs enough rest to stimulate his growth and development and when this is achieved, your baby can reach his full potential
(Press release Pampers, June 2009)