Why is it important for babies to have so much sleep and why is it beneficial?
Babies use sleep to organise their brains. When babies sleep well they have a better and more responsive immune system, mental wellbeing and energy levels are increased, growth hormones are released, cortisol/ stress levels are reduced, memory is reinforced, appetite regulates itself (hormones such as leptin work in harmony), new skills are processed and energy levels are revived during deeper phases of sleep.
Babies are born with millions of neurons that are not yet connected. When a baby attains restorative sleep and only when they fall into this state of deep and dream sleep do these neurons fire up and make the relevant connections to link the left brain and the right brain via the cerebral cortex. If babies do not sleep enough and turn into toddlers who don’t sleep enough they are more at risk of developing behavioural type disorders such as ADHD. Sleep and diet account for a massive array of behavioural issues in young children sadly.
Babies are born with 25% of a developed ‘adult’ brain and as they get older the connections mentioned above are made. By two years of age they have 75% of their adult brain. This ONLY happens when they sleep hence why getting baby into a routine is so important.
Young babies enter sleep differently- REM- Deep Sleep- REM. Rapid eye movement sleep counts for 50% of total sleep vs 20-25% of adults. They spend so much time developing from 0-3 months that it is no wonder they spend so much of their time in developmental REM sleep! Once babies get to 3-4 months old the sleep cycle starts to evolve (commonly referred to as the 4-month sleep regression) to become more similar to that of an adult. They now have to move through light/ active sleep in order to get into deeper sleep. This often comes as a shock to parents who previously had a baby who could fall asleep relatively easily! Working through this with routine implementation is the way forward.