Sleep is the holy grail of parenting. It bonds new parents together as they wearily commiserate about their lack of it; and pulls couples apart during yet another 2:00 a.m. argument over “whose turn it is.” But what happens after those newborn years when a good night’s sleep is still elusive? What do parents do when their two year old, or even ten year old, is still not sleeping well?
WHY IS SLEEP SO IMPORTANT?
Dr. Penny Corkum is a clinical child and school psychologist, and a professor in the department of psychology and neuroscience at Dalhousie University. Her research focuses on children’s sleep and how sleep and mental health are connected. She says that while much research has been done on adult sleep problems, there has been comparatively little done on children’s sleep. Corkum says most of what they know is correlational, such as children who sleep less tend to struggle more in school and have behavioural problems. Some of her recent work has gone deeper and included sleep manipulation studies where children have their sleep restricted by as little as an hour and then have daytime functioning tested.
“After four nights of this … we were able to demonstrate that they actually had difficulties with things like memory, paying attention, emotional regulation; they actually changed how they viewed pictures — they tended to see things in a less positive light,” Corkum says. “We’re really concerned because this is a period when their brains are developing and skills are developing, and the impact that might have on the developing child could potentially be even more problematic as an adult.”
Read my full article from Family Matters to find out if your child has a real sleep problem, or if it's something easily fixed; along with some tips on better sleep for all!