Research has indicated that it is not the number of brain cells that are important for a child’s potential or ability to learn but rather the number of connections each nerve makes within the brain. We call these connections dendrites and they are extremely important for the child’s cognitive development. They look like the branches of a tree and the more branched the cells are the smarter the child is.
When learning is taking place, brain cells put out a protein marker. These markers have a “shelf life” and once they are lost, the information associated with them is lost forever. For the information to be stored the protein markers must grow dendrites. Dendrites grow during sleep.
Therefore children who do not sleep well every night do not develop well connected brains. If dendritic growth does not take place, information is lost. Dendritic growth takes place primarily 1 – 2 hours before natural waking. Alarm waking cuts sleep short and can interfere with dendritic growth.
Electronic gadgets like televisions, I-pads and electronic games super stimulate an area in the brain responsible for attention. Excessive use of electronic gadgets wires the brain so that “normal attention” becomes difficult for the child. It is recommended that children under the age of 2 years should not be exposed to electronic gadgetry. Furthermore it takes approximately an hour for the brain to “shut down” once it has been exposed to electronic gadgets. No child should be allowed to watch TV or play electronic games immediately before bed and children should not have these electronic gadgets in their bedrooms as this seriously interferes with sleep.
Preschool children need 11 hours of sleep per day. Some of this may be nap-time but if your child does not sleep during the day, he / she should be in bed by 7.00pm if he / she needs to get up by 6.00am the following day. Then you can be sure that all the information learnt the day before is bedded down in long term memory and your child is ready for the challenge of new learning the next day.