How Sleep Affects Brain Development in Preschoolers
Sleepless nights for your preschooler can result in more than grumpy mornings and evening temper tantrums; a preschool child’s sleep is a key factor when it comes to brain development. Getting an adequate amount of sleep will not only improve your child’s mood and energy levels, but will also improve their educational performance dramatically!
Synapse Creation in the Preschool Brain
Synapses in the brain are created at a rate of 800 per second when your little one is awake and cognitively stimulated. These brand-new synapses are very fragile, especially immediately following creation. During sleep, the brain forms and strengthens these connections through a process called neuroplasticity. This is accomplished during “slow wave sleep” which helps with vocabulary, as well as during stage two of non-REM sleep which helps to develop motor skills. During REM sleep, any emotional or social memories are solidified.
Studies have shown that missing even a single hour of sleep can reduce the cognitive maturation process by the equivalent of two years, meaning that an eight-year-old will perform at the level of a six-year-old. One’s IQ drops 7% with a single missed hour, and the ability to “catch up” eventually gets lost if sleep loss is chronic. Over all, children should get a minimum of 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night.
Attention Span and Positive Emotions
A lack of sleep debilitates the body’s ability to extract glucose from the bloodstream. Glucose is the “energy pill” that all cells use to function. Therefore, less sleep means less attention, less focus, and less self-control (cue the grocery store temper tantrum).
Even memory storage is affected by sleep loss. Any emotional component of a memory gets stored in one of two locations. If the memory is negative, it will be stored in the part of the brain called the amygdala. If the memory is positive, it gets stored in the part of the brain called the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus much harder than the amygdala. This causes children to only remember negative memories, thus leaving a negative impact on a child’s perspective.
Tips for Optimal Sleep
While there are things parents cannot control in the lives of their children, such as what they see or hear outside of their home, there is one thing that can be controlled; creating a peaceful sleeping environment that exists without a cell phone, TV, computer, or any other electronic device.
Whether their favorite bedtime-pastime is telling tall tales, reading stories, or listening to their favorite song, it’s important to establish a regular routine for going to sleep. Invest in black-out curtains and a quality sound machine if necessary, and stick to the same bedtime each night.
When preschoolers get enough sleep, it changes the fundamental structure of their brain and alters every other brain process the following day. When they consistently get enough sleep, children feel happier, are smarter, and will develop a brain that can handle challenges that come later in life. Say goodbye to sleepless nights, and hello to a happier, healthier child!
For more information on special preschool programs that help and support your child in reaching his or her learning goals, talk to the staff at one of the premiere schools listed on Kids ‘R’ Kids Learning Academies of Atlanta. The Kids ‘R’ Kids First Class Curriculum® incorporates many learning tools that are fun and engaging, and the staff would love to discuss each program with you.