How Sleep Benefits the Brain and Physical Development

The Importance of Healthy Sleep in Babies and Children. Learn why it is so important for you to help your baby learn to sleep independently.

Baby sleeping on mom's chest while dad watches

Why is sleep important for babies and children?

Many times, moms who try to get their babies to sleep well get accused of being selfish, bad mothers.

This is very unfair. Working to help baby learn to sleep well and independently is not easy. Not easy in the least. It takes a lot of work and sacrifice on the part of parents.

A big reason parents do this is because sleep is so important for babies and children. They want their children to be able to sleep well because there are so many benefits to having healthy sleep.

One of the best things about the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is the detail on the importance of sleep.

I think a lot of people might think moms want baby to sleep in order to get a break. That is a nice bonus of sleeping, but that is not the reason for having baby sleep.

Getting a break has its merits, but this is not the reason we work so hard and spend so much time and effort into getting this baby to sleep.

We do it because sleep is important.

How sleep is benefiting your baby's brain and physical development

What are the Benefits of Sleep for Babies and Children?

Here are some quotes from Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child on the importance of sleep.

Sleep Helps the Brain

“Providing the growing brain with sufficient sleep is necessary for developing the ability to concentrate and an easier temperament” (page 7). (emphasis mine)

“Sleep is the power source that keeps your mind alert and calm” (page 7). (emphasis mine)

“Sleeping well increases brainpower just as lifting weights builds stronger muscles…” (page 7). (emphasis mine)

Sleep Helps Learning While Awake

“…when children learn to sleep well, they also learn to maintain optimal wakefulness” (page 8). (emphasis–larger text–mine)

“Sleep problems not only disrupt a child’s nights, they disrupt his days, too, by making him less mentally alert, more inattentive, unable to do concentrate, and easily distracted. They also make him more physically impulsive, hyperactive, or lazy” (page 11). (emphasis mine)

“…infants who sleep more during the day are better able to learn from their environment; this is because they have a better-developed ability to maintain focused or sustained attention…They learn simply from looking at the clouds and trees, touching, feeling, smelling, hearing, and watching their mother’s and father’s faces” (page 24). (emphasis mine)

Sleep helps optimal wakefulness and the ability to concentrate and learn better.

Your child will be better able to concentrate on things, observe things, and learn things when she is well-rested, just like you are.

I love his thought about your child learning from simply watching the clouds. Your baby does not need flashcards and movies to make her smart; she needs sleep! Simply living life teaches her, so long as she gets the sleep she needs.

I get a lot of comments on how alert my babies are whenever we are in public. I live in a place with a lot of babies. I mean, a lot. It isn’t as though people are surprised that babies are alert, they are surprised at how alert my babies are. I believe sleep contributes to this.

I also get questions from parents concerned at how much their children are sleeping or surprised at how much mine sleep. They wonder how babies could ever learn anything sleeping so much.

Sleep is so vitally important that I am willing to have my children sleep all that they need to as individuals for optimal brain development. They are then able to learn much more during a shorter amount of time awake than they would being awake for longer but in an overly-tired state.


Sleep Helps Mood

He talks about toddlers and how toddlers who get adequate sleep are milder and in positive moods. “…three year olds who nap are more adaptable than those who do not” (page 24). (emphasis mine)

“…the children who slept more [at age three] were more fun to be around, more sociable, and less demanding” (page 25). (emphasis mine)

Toddlers are much more fun when they get the sleep they need. They are happy, so you are happy, so they are happy.

When Kaitlyn was a toddler and didn’t get the sleep she needed, she was clingy, cried, and begged for sleep. At least she knew and recognized what made her feel better.

When McKenna was tired, she got really disobedient. When Brinley was tired, she got very irrational and emotional. When Brayden was tired, he stopped trying when things got hard. He just got frustrated and walked away.

Sleep helps with a positive mood so much.

4 vital benefits of having healthy sleep habits pinnable image

Sleep Helps Physical Health

“…in a study of one- and two-year-old children, those who woke up frequently were much more likely to have an injury such as a broken bone or cut requiring medical attention than those who slept through…” (page 318). (emphasis mine)

“In my own pediatric practice, fat babies are almost always overtired babies. That’s because their mothers have incorrectly attributed their babies’ crying to hunger instead of fatigue” (page 433). (emphasis mine)

Read: How To Fix Your Child’s Sleep Deficit

Sleep Benefits in Real Life

Some parents might want to hold off on teaching sleep abilities because someday the child will not need naps anyway. Parents will just wait it out. Weissbluth points out, “…it simply is not true that children who miss naps will “make up” for it by sleeping more at night. In fact, the sleep they miss is gone forever” (page 24). (emphasis mine)

Let’s talk some basic logic in association with these quotes above.

Think about yourself. You are a person, right? How do you feel when you don’t get enough sleep? How do you feel when you don’t get good sleep? Are you patient? Are you happy? Are you able to perform your job to the best of your ability?

Or are you irritable? Do you need music, caffeine, and/or sugar to keep you awake? When you are driving, do you need to blast the cold air to keep you awake?

I remember really appreciating the need of sleep even more once I had a toddler, preschooler, and baby all at the same time. I really saw and understood the impact of sleep on me.

When you have a toddler and/or preschooler to take care of, there is no where to run and hide when you are tired. You have to take care of them.

When I was in college and high school, I could retreat to my studies or my bedroom to get away from people and avoid snapping at them.

When I just had a baby, I could just go through the motions without much effort.

But with toddlers, you need your patience! I am much, much less patient when I am tired.

People literally need sleep. 

Babies are people, too. Toddlers are people, too. Children are people, too. Just like you need sleep, they need sleep.


Sleep is important for the whole family. Naps are important for your baby. They aren’t just a nicety for mom, they are a necessity for baby.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is a great book for convincing you of the importance of sleep. I really think every parent should read this book. If you are ever questioning why you are working so hard to establish good sleep habits in your baby, read this post, and read the book. This is just a small sampling of that is in the book.

Sleep is important. Sleep is vital. Your baby needs sleep.

The importance of healthy sleep in babies and children | The benefits of sleep | baby sleep | baby sleep schedule | #babysleep #babyslseeptraining

This post was originally published on this blog in January of 2010.