You’ve probably heard, more than once, that sleep is vital for the growth of healthy children. The scientific community has known for a long time that the hours while the body is sleeping are not idle hours where it literally turns itself off. These are hours when the body is performing critical functions that help children grow. But why is it so important for children?
Dr. Cara Natterson, a pediatrician and graduate of John Hopkins School of Medicine and Harvard University, provides important insight as to why age factors into the need for more sleep:
“Sleep is a critical ingredient to good growth, and the amount of sleep we need depends upon our age,” says Dr. Natterson. “Little babies, newborns, and infants get somewhere around 16 hours of sleep for every 24 hours, give or take. Toddlers need about 14 hours of sleep in every 24 hours.”
There’s just so much going on during those hours of sleep that the body cannot accomplish during waking hours.
The need for sleep isn’t merely about growing bones, hair, and nails. It’s interesting just how much goes on during childhood sleep. “When you were young, your mother may have told you that you need to get enough sleep to grow strong and tall. She may have been right! Deep sleep triggers more release of growth hormone, which fuels growth in children and boosts muscle mass and the repair of cells and tissues in children and adults. Sleep’s effect on the release of sex hormones also encourages puberty and fertility,” reports the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Essentially, sleep isn’t only about growing strong and tall, though it definitely is critical in those regards, but it also plays a vital role in achieving important biological milestones such as puberty and fertility. But that’s not all. KidsHealth.org explains that getting too little sleep can not only have a negative impact on the growth of children, but also the development of a healthy immune system that keeps children from getting sick.
Sleep also helps improve mood and the ability to absorb and retain new information learned throughout the day. Children’s minds are so active and they are receiving so much new information each and every day. An adequate foundation in sleep helps them grow mentally as well as physically. All growth in childhood, after all, doesn’t show up on growth charts.
Kids do a lot during the day. Adults may take it for granted, since much of what they’re doing looks a lot like play, but little minds, hands, and bodies need a lot of sleep in order to keep up their energy throughout the day. A solid foundation for children between the ages of five and twelve is to get ten or eleven hours of sleep each day so they can grow up strong and healthy.
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