What happens when your baby doesn't get enough sleep

Milk aside, it’s vital that your baby gets sufficient rest ― if not, they may suffer from health issues.

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When you’re caring for a newborn, you always wish you could enjoy just a few more minutes of shut-eye. While adults function on 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, your newborn needs more than twice as much sleep than you.

In fact, newborns need between 16 and 18 hours of sleep a day. But how do you know your little one is getting adequate rest since they sleep in fits and starts? Add up the total number of hours of sleep your little one over a 24-hour period, suggests Dr Yang Linqi, a consultant paediatrician at Thomson Paediatric Centre.

To try and make up for the deficit, she suggests, “Try to put him to sleep again a while later or extend the hours of the next nap to help him catch up.”

Cues that your little one is sleepy to look out for are yawning, excess fussiness, rubbing of eyes.

If their sleep deficiency is extended, this can lead to various serious issues for your little one, and may even take a toll on you. Learn what impact sleep deprivation has on your infant, as well as how to get your little one to nod off!

A sleep deficit is linked to increased sleepiness or drowsiness, less physical activity and also eating more high-calorie foods.

1. Overtired baby

Bubba may feel overtired from the lack of sleep. This means that he is are too tired to even sleep and instead, end up being hyperactive. It’s very hard when the situation deteriorates to this extent as overtired babies can’t fall asleep, and even if they do, they wake up quickly.

2. Moodiness

Insufficient sleep can cause babies to become fussy and irritable, as your little one didn’t get the sleep they needed. Your little one will be more disengaged and more frustrated.

3. Their growth is affected

Lack of sleep can negatively affect your little one’s growth. Dr Yang says, “Irregular sleep patterns also disturb the child’s feeding pattern and in turn, the child’s growth may be affected.”


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4. Prone to obesity

A baby who has insufficient sleep may have obesity issues by the time he is age 3. Dr Yang explains that many studies associate lack of sleep with obesity. The first possible reason, she notes, “Disturbances in the circadian cycle* causes changes in the levels of hormones including cortisol, leptin and ghrelin, which regulate energy expenditure. The imbalance can lead to an increase in energy intake over the energy expended.”

She adds that a sleep deficit is linked to increased sleepiness or drowsiness, less physical activity and also eating more high-calorie foods.

* The circadian cycle is the biological process that regulates periods of sleepiness and wakefulness throughout the day.

5. Higher risk of long-term health issues

Insufficient sleep could lead to your child facing a higher risk of dealing with serious long-term health problems. Dr Yang states, “Higher rates of obesity and body fat, specifically abdominal fat have been linked to higher risks of chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.”

6. Postnatal depression

When your little one doesn’t sleep enough, parents who stay up with them for long hours, feel tired and stressed out as well. Studies have also shown that sleep deprivation actually worsens postpartum depression for mums.

“A warm bath allows for sleepiness to set in as the child’s body temperature naturally lowers after the warm bath.”

The possible consequences of wakeful babies are pretty horrifying. Dr Yang has tips to help get your little one fall asleep:

1. Have a sleep routine

Follow a particular sleep routine whenever possible, so that your little one will get sufficient sleep daily. A sleep routine will likely help your baby fall asleep faster, as the predictable routine calms and lets them know what to expect next. Dr Yang advises, “Keep to a regular sleep routine as much as possible, try to plan the family’s activities around the designated sleep times.”

2. Give warm baths

Did you know that a warm bath could help your little one sleep faster? Dr Yang explains, “A warm bath allows for sleepiness to set in as the child’s body temperature naturally lowers after the warm bath.” At the same time, giving him a bath means you can play with them a little, which should expend some of their energy!

3. Have a conducive environment for sleeping

The type of environment your baby is sleeping in also affects how fast they fall asleep. Dr Yang suggests a comfortable bedroom environment that is dark, quiet and a cool temperature. You might also wish to play soothing music or white noise.

Photos: iStock

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