The Yes Brain in your child and how sleep can help them find it

As mothers, we think a LOT about the eternal hunt for deep, nourishing sleep, and why life is brighter when the nights are quieter. To the point of obsession, we know that sleep and health are intrinsically linked, and that energy, patience and vitality rely on quality deposits in the sleep bank. New research is also finding that quality sleep is essential for cleaning our brains of toxins. 

Dr Daniel Siegel, co-author with Dr Tina Payne Bryson of “The Yes Brain Child”, is big on maximising children’s sleep for better brain health. Have you read this fascinating New York Times Bestseller? Siegel explains that when children sleep, the toxins in their brain from a day’s worth of neural firing are cleaned and cleared, enabling our children to start their day with a free, cleaned-up brain.

“Without enough sleep,” Siegel says, “all sorts of brain and body processes are compromised, such as our ability to pay attention, remember, learn, be patient and flexible, and even properly process the food we eat.”

In the book, Siegel talks about the ‘No Brain’ and the ‘Yes Brain’ approach in children. He says that when children are out of balance, their No Brain becomes more reactive, which leaves them with little choice but fight or flight. As adults, we can surely relate to our buttons feeling pushed when we are tired and frazzled.

In contrast, Siegel says when children are in balance, they can then work from a Yes Brain mentality “… and are more flexible, more open to compromise, more willing to take chances and explore. They’re more curious, more imaginative, less worried about making mistakes. They’re also less rigid and stubborn, which makes them better at relationships and more adaptable and resilient when it comes to handling adversity.”

So, how do we help our children work from a Yes Brain mentality? Dr Siegel says there are two main strategies to help promote a balanced brain: the first is to maximise their sleep. The second strategy is to serve a healthy mind platter (we will share more about this in our next blog).

So, how much quality sleep do children need per day?
- Babies from 4-12 months of age need 12-16 hours
- Children from 1 to 2 years need 11-14 hours (including naps)
- Children from 3 years to 5 years need 10-13 hours (including naps)
- Children from 6 years to 12 years need 9-12 hour

And how can we maximise our children’s ZZZ’s:
‘The Yes Brain Child’ suggests the following factors may get in the way of healthy sleep for children and what to do about it. However, as you read this list, please remember that no family is perfect and that if your home is lagging in one factor, it may still be winning in other factors, so approach this information with zero judgement and plenty of curiosity.

A full schedule: Consider if your children have too many activities right up to bedtime that prevent them from finding the time and space to ramp down their bodies and minds for sleep. How can you create space before bed for your child to quietly read, bath, play or cuddle in order to dial down their parasympathetic nervous system to be ready for sleep?

A chaotic or noisy environment: Is your home or neighbourhood raucous in the evenings or do you have siblings with different bedtimes that share a bedroom? Perhaps get creative by blocking out sunlight, using white noise to drown out sound or moving kids to their shared room once their sibling is asleep.

Parental work hours: When a parent gets home late and therefore their children’s bedtime is pushed back this results in bedtimes being pushed back too. How can you get creative and ask for help to have your kids eat earlier without you so that they are ready for you to simply read them books at their bedtime as your way to connect. Each family will find different solutions.

Bedtime power struggles: When the context around going to bed becomes stressful, angry, contentious or fearful then the brain wires a negative association with sleep so children will resist even more. How can you make your bedtime rituals relaxing and consistent? How can you find more time and patience for snuggling, reading and being present? Siegel notes, “Emphasising connection almost always ends up leading to children falling asleep more quickly and peacefully…” Our Bedtime Ritual art print is a beautiful ritual to hang on your child’s wall or place on their shelf as a guide to follow with love and connection.

Siegel encourages adults to also think of the way sleep and balance applies to their lives. As mums, how much sleep are we prioritising for ourselves, and how gently and lovingly are we preparing ourselves in the evenings for slumber? Pass the chamomile tea, please! x

Image caption: Wearing our GOTS-Certified Organic Tiny Whales Kimono Sleepsuit in Hydrangea Blue. Available now in our SHOP for babies up to age 2 and in PJ sets for ages 2-11 years. 
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