Why is sleep important?
Sleep is an important physiological process which allows our body to rest and recover. It’s not a time of inactivity however!
When an infant, child or adult is sleeping the brain is in fact very busy, with activity particularly involving higher cortical functions, and some studies state that brain is considered more active during sleep than during wakefulness (1).
The consequences of sleep problems in infants and children are many. In older children they include daytime sleepiness which manifests often as mood and behavioral disturbances such as hyperactivity, poor impulse control, inattention, social and learning problems (1,2,3).
Sleep problems can affect higher-level cognitive functions such as cognitive flexibility, ability to reason and think abstractly, attention and memory. On top of this there is reported effects on the cardiovascular, immune, and various metabolic systems, including glucose metabolism and endocrine function (1,2).
The consequences of poor sleep in infants may also include distress for parents, which can influence maternal wellbeing (4).
1. Hanan M El Shakankiry. Sleep physiology and sleep disorders in childhood. Nature and Science of Sleep 2011:3 101–114)
2. Matriciani, LA et al. Never Enough Sleep: A Brief History of Sleep Recommendations for Children. Pediatrics 2012;129;548)
3. Lam P, et al. Outcomes of Infant Sleep Problems: A Longitudinal Study of Sleep, Behavior, and Maternal Well-Being, Pediatrics 2003;111:e203–e207
4. Goyal, D et al. Fragmented maternal sleep is more strongly correlated with depressive symptoms than infant temperament at three months postpartum. Arch Womens Ment Health (2009) 12:229–237)