We all feel very frustrated and mentally disturbed when we haven’t had a good night sleep.
Do you remember how you felt without sleeping when you were kids? Sure, but the effects were totally different. Or at least we didn’t understand it back then. Research shows that sleep deprivation has a similar effect on a young ones brain as it does on an adult brain. It’s just the way our body reacts to it in different ages.
But why do we feel like that? What is it with sleeping that spoils everything physically, mentally and emotionally that nothing else helps but only sleep.
It’s fairly important to understand how the brain is connected to sleep. Understanding the connection we can help our young ones to be better at what they do and make the most out of their healthy living.
Sleep helps in directly calming the mind and making it more emotionally stable and helps in the development of the Brain. Sleep also helps in improving cognitive functions, attention span, focus and much more. Hence, we can get more and better things done after a good night's sleep.
On the other hand a sleep deprived mind is unable to perform basic mental activities like being attentive or learn/grasp a new concept. We say the brain is drained out but there’s a deeper scientific understanding to it. This blog explains why.
Sleep - Brain Connection
Human brain needs 3 basic things to function normal;
Nutrition, Love/Care/Affections and sleep. It’s easy to know why nutrition and care make up a healthy brain, but it takes a little bit of science to understand what effect sleep has to keep a brain healthy.
A normal brain uses up to 50% of the total glucose supply, which explains the need for sleep. For younger children, the brain experiences that they have effect the development of the brain's architecture that impedes learning, behaviour and health. Just like a weak foundation of any building weakens the whole structure, some adverse childhood experience can lay negative effects on a child for an entire lifetime.
Studies have shown remarkable increase in synapses during the first 3 years of life. This is where the brain develops functional architecture and connections. Connections are formed by new environment & experiences.
By the time a child turns 3 the brain has formed around 1000 trillion connections which is twice as much as an average adult. A baby brain is super dense for about 10 years. Around age 11, the brain starts getting rid of unnecessary connections in a process called pruning which gradually allows remaining connections to be more effective and powerful.
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder discovered that when children are sleeping, their brain is busy building new and strengthening old connections between the left and the right hemisphere of the brain. These connections are for communication between the 2 hemispheres.
As we get older, these connections formed in early childhood, serve as infrastructure for complex neural connections throughout an individuals’ life.
Having both brain hemispheres symmetrical and well connected is the key to efficient learning, memory and creativity.
It’s been observed that the most crucial time for these changes are in the first 3 years of life. This is one of the reasons why small children recover from brain injuries better and faster than adults. It also explains how a 3 - 4 year old learns linguistics even when the entire left hemisphere of their brain has been removed.
Hence, having strong connections between the brain parts is the key to maximize learning, memory retention & creativity. And stronger bond are only formed when the brain has had time to build them when you were asleep.
This explains the connection between brain and sleep. Now, let’s discuss what effects does lack of sleep has on the brain and how to help a child get enough sleep.
Knowledge is converted to memory whilst you sleep
Lack of sleep causes bigger problems than you could imagine. Like loss of basic cognitive skills, developmental delays all of which can be traced back to lack of sleep and rest to the brain.
Inadequate and poor sleep quality affects children's performance in intelligence tests as well. A study done between 13 children with autism as well as 13 children with no learning or social disabilities have thrown up the following results
“It was found that disruptions in the protective brainwaves during sleep are associated with lower results in verbal IQ tests. The study established that children and adolescents are particularly affected by lack of sleep, especially because they are in an important developmental period.”
So, How much sleep is enough?
To optimize brain functions of a child, make sure that the amount of sleep their brain needs is met. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a child should sleep:
12 to 16 hours per day (including naps) between ages 4 months and 12 months
11 to 14 hours per day (including naps) between ages 1 and 2
10 to 13 hours per day (including naps) between ages 3 and 5
9 to 12 hours per day between ages 6 and 12
8 to 10 hours per day between ages 13 and 18
How to help your child get enough sleep?
A lot of children have trouble falling asleep. The solution is to set their bedtime earlier & ensure they fall asleep. A regular routine—such as taking a bath, brushing teeth, and then reading for a short period of time has shown to work for a lot of kids.
Create a good sleep environment for a child to help fall and stay asleep. Your child’s sleeping bedroom should be:
Dark, with only one dim nightlight i.e. if necessary
temperatures below 74 Degree Farenhite
Screen-free, including televisions, smartphones, computers, and tablets
Finally, a bedtime snack or drink could be interfering with your child’s ability to sleep.
Avoid sugary foods for a couple of hours before bedtime to help him/her rest easier.
Caffeinated drinks should not be consumed within six hours of bedtime.
Hope this article gives you a better understanding about sleep and it’s connection with the brain. Especially in a child’s age. One of the Pioneers in this field is BRAINY – A division of Brain Child Learning which helps in Brain Training for Children in the age group of 7 to 16 year olds. They have a methodology of Training which Involves Meditation / Digitised Music – to open new neural pathways in the brain and Neurobic Exercises which help the mind stay agile and alert. The Blended training provides all round development of the brain with multiple benefits. One of the components is the Sensory Enhancement & Memory Training Course which focuses on improving the Communication between the neural Pathways and to develop New Neural Pathways with the help of the SWS technology from Japan.
To know more you can refer to www.brainy.co.in for more information on the training methodology or Google the term “Sensory Enhancement Course” or “Sensory Enhancement Program”.
Let us hear your thoughts, comments, suggestions and experiences in the comment section below.