The Importance of Sleep in Child Development: A Guide

The Importance of Sleep in Child Development: A Guide

Let’s be honest: No one starts the day off on the right foot unless they’ve had enough quality shut-eye. Sleepless nights often result in no energy, a poor mood, and brain fog — not exactly a winning combo for a successful day. 

Oh, and not to mention its effects on the skin; according to experts, a lack of sleep can cause acne and dryness. In other words, there might be more truth to beauty sleep than you thought!

That being said, despite being such a wonderful thing, sleep and kids are like water and oil — they simply don’t mix. In fact, it’s arguably one of the greatest ironies of parenthood: kids need to get plenty of rest, but catching zzzs is almost always the last thing they want to do. 

If you’re like most exhausted parents, the nightly baby bedtime battle probably frustrates you to no end. Rightfully so, however, as it’s been a long grueling day, and you’re likely running on fumes. 

Yet, although you’re one tantrum away from throwing in the towel and just letting your tiny tyke stay up, you remain firm and empowered through the nighttime routine. Why? Because you know getting plenty of good quality sleep is vital to your little one’s healthy growth and development. 

How Does Sleep Impact a Child’s Development? 

Before we dive right into how sleep impacts a child’s development, let’s take a look at these statistics below:

  • According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), somewhere between 25 and 50 percent of children struggle with sleep.
  • In a recent two-year study, researchers concluded that 34.9 percent of kids are not getting enough sleep at night. 
  • New research presented at the AAP 2019 National Conference & Exhibition found that only 48 percent of school-age children in the United States get the recommended nine hours of shut-eye most weeknights.   

As you can see, there’s quite a bit of research suggesting that many kids these days are sleep deprived. This is a huge problem — especially for the little ones. Why? Because in the first few years, a child’s noggin develops more rapidly than at any other time in life. 

In fact, by age five, up to 90 percent of a child’s brain is formed, and with that, sleep is the engine behind so many connections and pathways that form their overall development.

So, how can a lack of vitamin Zzz affect a child’s development? Here are a few ways:


While kids aren’t notoriously known for their incredibly long attention spans in the first place, when they are lacking in the sleep department, they are even less able to focus for long bouts of time.


Ask any seasoned parent, and they are sure to tell you that a sleepy child is a cranky child. 

This is because sleep and behavior often go hand in hand — when a kid sleeps more, they generally behave better; when a kid sleeps less, they tend to behave worse. 

But don’t just take our word for it — according to a recent study published in Sleep Medicine, experts found that children who bully others or fight at school were more likely to be sleep-deprived. 

And in another study, researchers discovered that parents and teachers reported more behavioral problems in school-aged children who didn’t get enough rest during their younger years compared to peers who did get an age-appropriate amount of shut-eye.

Needless to say, sleep is very important in child development as it appears to have a direct link to the way a child behaves. 

Memory and Learning

During sleep, the brain processes new information, forming connections between what is already stored in the neural pathways and creating new memories. 

Even in infants, the brain is extremely active during sleep. Some experts suggest that a little one’s movements when slumbering indicate their nervous system teaching the brain how it’s connected to muscles and how the body functions.

With that in mind, it makes perfect sense that researchers have recently discovered that well-rested kids tend to retain more information than those who are sleep-deprived.    

Bone Development and Growth

Deep sleep is critical for the development and growth of your wee one. The majority of human growth hormones (found in the pituitary gland) are secreted during the deepest stages of rest, so without quality sleep, kids may not grow at an appropriate rate. 

Inadequate growth can affect height in addition to impeding the healthy development of your child’s cardiovascular system. Ideally, kids should spend about half of their sleep time in the deepest stages of sleep to ensure adequate development and growth.  

How Much Sleep Do Children Need?

Now that you know how sleep can impact a child, you might be wondering how much quality shut-eye kiddos actually need to support healthy growth and development. 

We’ll go over the recommended amount of sleep in just a moment, but first, it’s essential to keep in mind that this is simply a guideline as each kid and circumstance is different. 

In addition, your tiny tot may need a little more sleep than what is recommended, and other times they may feel perfectly fine with a little less. Watch for sleep cues and adjust their schedule as needed to find out how much quality shut-eye per night works best. 

So, how many hours should kids slumber each night? Here’s what the AAP recommends:

  • Infants between ages four months and 12 months need 12 to 16 hours per day.
  • Toddlers between ages one and two years need 11 to 14 hours per day.
  • Preschoolers between three and five years need ten to 16 hours per day.
  • School-Aged Children between six and 12 years need nine to 12 hours per day.

The Bottom Line 

While the nightly baby bedtime battle may cause you distress, there’s no denying that it’s 100 percent necessary as good quality sleep is imperative to children's healthy growth and development. 

Without proper shut-eye, everything from a child’s behavior to learning and staying attentive can be negatively affected.

In addition to supporting healthy growth and development, quality shut-eye also helps to maintain a strong immune system and a healthy body weight, reducing the risk of potential health issues.

Needless to say, adequate sleep is of the utmost importance for kids — especially when they are young.   

That being said, if you’re struggling to get your favorite tiny human to take naps or hit the hay at night, we recommend sticking to a consistent bedtime routine that consists of a few snoozy activities, such as a warm bubble bath with our soothing shampoo and body wash or a relaxing infant massage with our nourishing body lotion

While it may take some time to instill healthy sleep habits with a regular bedtime routine, ensuring your tot gets enough hours of sleep will help to prevent sleep deprivation while keeping daytime sleepiness at bay. 

Ready to make bedtime a breeze to help your little buddy get the vitamin Zzz they need to thrive? 

Check us out here at Little Yawn Collective and discover safe, effective, melatonin-free sleep help made specifically for kids. Approved by pediatricians and formulated by experts, we champion proven sleep solutions so parents can feel confident about bedtime — every time

Sweet dreams, ahead!


Adaptation of the 24-h growth hormone profile to a state of sleep debt | Journals

UMass Amherst Research Finds Naps Plus Sleep May Enhance Emotional Memory in Early Childhood | UMass Amherst

Consequences of Bullying Behavior - Preventing Bullying Through Science, Policy, and Practice | NCBI Bookshelf

A Clinical Overview of Sleep and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adolescents | NCBI

Only half of US children get enough sleep during the week -- ScienceDaily | Science Daily

Short Sleep Duration Among Infants, Children, and Adolescents Aged 4 Months–17 Years — United States, 2016–2018 | MMWR

Diagnosis and Management of Common Sleep Problems in Children | AAP

Acne Severity and Sleep Quality in Adults | NCBI


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