The most important advice for young parents is never to wake up a sleeping baby whether at home or a nursery in Manchester or across the UK. Now there is evidence to prove that sleep has profound effects on the brain’s development on the very young.
From birth until roughly two and a half years old, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep is vitally important to the building of synaptic connections which help brain cells communicate with each other, according to research by UCLA.
This is part of the reason why babies need so much sleep during a day. A baby will sleep for between 14 and 17 hours a day because most of the brain’s development is undertaken whilst they dream.
However, that is not to say sleep becomes less important once children get a little older. Sleep helps to repair the brain and maintain it, and there is a connection between being well-rested and reducing the risk of brain disease later in life.
What is so interesting is that this is true for all the animals studied as well, not just humans. Each animal has a dramatic shift in what sleep is used for around the developmental equivalent of two and a half years old.
There are some important lessons to be had here. Not just to never wake a sleeping child but to try and ensure you get good shut-eye as well. According to the research team at UCLA sleep is “as important as food” in terms of helping to nourish and repair our brains.