Don’t Believe It! Common Myths About Toddler Sleep
Friends and relatives are full of advice. Of course they’re all very well-meaning, but sometimes they’re just flat-out wrong! Here are some of the most common myths you may hear them promoting: MYTH 1: It’s normal for little kids to sleep alone. FACT: Who really wants to sleep alone? In most cultures, young children sleep with their siblings or parents for years. Parents are often surprised to learn that bed-sharing increases with age! At three years, 22 percent of kids are doing it; and at four years, 38 percent bed-share at least once a week. Even 10–15 percent of preschoolers still routinely bed-share. MYTH 2: Toddlers sleep all night. FACT: Actually, video studies show that toddlers lightly wake up several times a night. But most of us never know this because our groggy kids usually just slide back to sleep without a peep. MYTH 3: Toddlers need less sleep than infants. FACT: Although your toddler’s daytime sleep will steadily lessen as he gives up his two naps a day, he’ll still need eleven to twelve hours of nighttime sleep until he reaches five years. And, between four and twelve years of age, his night sleep will barely drop from eleven hours a day to ten. MYTH 4: A toddler’s sleep has no effect on his ability to learn or his health. FACT: In addition to triggering a host of daytime behavior problems like tantrums, crankiness, aggression, impulsivity, and defiance, sleep deprivation results in “three strikes” against learning: poor attention, poor knowledge acquisition, and poor memory. Studies have also shown an association in little kids between too little sleep and health issues years later. Surprisingly, a reduction of just one hour of sleep a night during early childhood can affect school-age learning! For example, Canadian researchers reported that getting less than ten hours of sleep made tots and preschoolers twice as likely to be overweight, have hyperactivity, and do poorly on a cognitive test later in childhood. It appears that there’s a critical period in the early years when inadequate sleep undermines development, even if sleep habits improve later on. For more about toddler sleep, see pages 219-222 in The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep.