Have you ever heard of the phrase “Practice Makes Perfect”? If so, this phrase directly relates to practicing a good sleep routine, which can have a great impact on your child’s focus, attention, energy levels, ability to learn new skills, memory, and overall health.
Sleep is more important than you may think and plays a vital role in the consolidation of declarative and procedural memory. Declarative memory, which is the knowledge of fact-based information or “what” we know and procedural memory is remembering “how” to do something, which develops motor planning and coordination.
When introducing a new motor skill to your child, learning occurs through a process of 3 stages; Cognitive stage, Associative stage, and Autonomous stage.
“what to do” stage. The goal is to develop an overall understanding and objective of the skill.
“how to do” stage. Your child will demonstrate a more refined movement through practice and he/she can focus on “how” to move.
During this final stage of learning, the motor skill becomes mostly automatic and can be performing with little cognitive thought.
Each of these stages is necessary for proper memory function. Although these stages occur only during wakefulness, research suggests that memory consolidation takes place during sleep, helping to strengthen neural connections within the brain that form our memories. When we are sleep deprived, our focus, attention, and vigilance are altered, making it more difficult to receive information to learn a new skill. Without adequate sleep and rest, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, and we lose our ability to access previously learned information (memories). In addition, your child’s bodily systems (organs), mood, judgment, behavior, appetite, and communication may be altered.
It is very important to encourage a proper sleep schedule to ensure you child is getting adequate amounts of sleep throughout the week, as this will benefit his/her ability to learn new skills.
Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wake up time, even on the weekends.
Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.
Complete exercise/movement each day.
Create a cool comfortable sleeping environment, including a supportive mattress.
Avoid naps, especially in the afternoon.
No electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
Reduce the focus of sleep, stating it is simply time to relax.
Give your child tools to overcome his/her worries, such as a flashlight, a spray bottle filled with “monster spray,” or a large stuffed animal to “protect” him/her.
Set up a reward system.
Written By: Luke Lang, PTA, Physical Therapy Team
-Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School
-National Sleep Foundation