The Relationship Between Childhood Sleep and Physical and Mental Health

An appropriate relationship between childhood sleep and physical and mental health is essential for the development of children.
The Relationship Between Childhood Sleep and Physical and Mental Health
Andrés Felipe Cardona Lenis

Reviewed and approved by degree in physical education and sports Andrés Felipe Cardona Lenis.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Achieving the right relationship between childhood sleep and physical and mental health is easier than it seems, especially when children are young.

During childraising, parents do many things in a mechanized way, a product of fatigue and routine. However, we don’t always pay attention to the fact that our children’s behavior patterns are closely related to the quantity and quality of their rest.

In this article, we’re going to tell you why the relationship between childhood sleep and health is so important.

Child dream

Adults divide their day between the cycles of wakefulness and sleep, both of which are important but have different characteristics. In general, we distribute them consistently over time.

In the case of children, the situation is somewhat different, as they’re in a process of adaptation with respect to these cycles. Consequently, variable periods of sleep and wakefulness alternate until reaching the maturity of this vital process.

A baby sleeping in a crib.

Learn more: The Stages of Sleep in Babies and Children

Wake and sleep cycles

Generally speaking, wakefulness and sleep are equally important periods of time for people’s physical and psychological development.

The wakefulness cycle occurs, of course, when we’re awake, while our body remains alert to external and internal stimuli. During this stage, children interact with the environment and discover new skills, so it’s the right time to stimulate basic physical abilities.

On the other hand, during the sleep cycle, we sleep and rest. Our brain relaxes, and its activity decreases without stopping completely. Although we’re not aware of it, during the night, our bodies carry out essential functions, such as neuronal regeneration and the development of some psychological capacities.

So, the waking and sleeping cycles are different but complementary. If one doesn’t occur properly, then it disturbs the other as well.

The relationship between childhood sleep and mental health

One of the main objectives of raising children is to ensure a pleasant and sufficient rest. But, do you know why sleep is so important to your health?

According to a study that took place at Warwick University, Australia, infant sleep periods lasting less than 7 hours can affect children’s behavior. In fact, these researchers have described associations with certain behavior and mood disorders in children, such as depression, anxiety, impulsive behavior, and poor cognitive performance.

Although quantity is not synonymous with quality, the researchers concluded that at least 53% of children who sleep less than 7 hours increase the risk of suffering from any of these conditions.

During the sleep cycle, brain circuits are reorganized, especially during childhood. For this reason, it’s essential that your children get a good night’s sleep.

Children’s sleep and physical health

Have you noticed some clumsiness in your children when carrying out their activities? Have you ever wondered how they rest?

Usually, this problem has to do with a lack of sleep or some alteration in it. If these irregularities continue over time, they can affect the physical health of the little one.

In addition to what we already mentioned, during the sleep cycle, our body rests and leads to the cellular recovery process in the muscles and bones. Likewise, the brain assimilates the basic patterns of movement.

At the same time, a joint study between the universities of Queensland and James Cook determined the relationship between the quality of sleep and the risk of being overweight. Specifically, the researchers determined that one of the most important factors of this disease is the moment in which this cycle begins, regardless of the duration.

Therefore, they postulated that children who go to bed later are at greater risk of being overweight than those who go to bed earlier. Consequently, the researchers recommend starting the infant sleep period from 7 p.m.

A toddler jumping on his bed.

Don’t lose sight of the importance of childhood sleep in the health of your children

In addition to the above, it’s important to note that the World Health Organization (WHO) places special emphasis on the importance of maintaining a good rest during childhood. Within its standards, they recommend prolonged periods of physical activity, a good diet, and ensuring quality sleep.

As a parent, you can’t ignore these aspects, as they’re essential in order to guarantee the care of your children. Remember that they’re in the middle of their physical and psychological development and that any alteration can greatly harm them.

If you have doubts, seek professional advice. That way, you can ensure that the relationship between sleep and your children’s health is as appropriate as possible.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.