How Lack of Sleep Affects Child Health

“Sleeping like a baby” has become a common term. However, not every child can get such restful or peaceful sleep. An estimated two-thirds of American children suffer from some kind of sleep disorder. Sleep is a cornerstone of every child’s development, and lack of sleep can cause serious problems with mental, physical and social development. Here is what parents need to know about lack of sleep and how it affects your child’s health.

Types of Sleep Disorders

There are several types of sleep disorders. The first type, called parasomnias, include nightmares, night terrors and sleepwalking. It also includes any other abnormal movements or behaviors due to dreams. This is what most parents think of when discussing sleep disorders in children. However, it only affects between 6% and 15% of all children.

Insomnia is the most common type of sleep disorder in children. It affects up to 25% of all kids. Insomnia is characterized by being unable to fall asleep and/or waking often during the night.

Obstructive sleep apnea is more rare it affects only 2% to 4% of all children. However, it can be very serious and cause serious problems for your child. With obstructive sleep apnea, a child will stop breathing for a period of a few seconds during sleep. This pause in breathing may occur more than once during sleep.

What Causes Sleep Disorders in Children?

Sleep disorders can be caused by an array of different factors:

  • Stress
  • Caffeinated drinks before bed
  • Certain medications, like antidepressants or corticosteroids
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Family history of sleep disorders
  • Use of electronics before bed
  • Illness or other physical problems

What are the Symptoms of Lack of Sleep?

Snoring is harmless when it occurs occasionally and for a very short period of time. When occurring regularly, it can be a big indicator that your child is not getting enough sleep. It is a sign that the quality of sleep is sub-par, and it can also point to obstructive sleep apnea in your child.

If your child has a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep for a longer period of time, he or she may have a sleep disorder. It should take no longer than 20 to 30 minutes for a child to fall asleep, and once asleep, a child should be able to sleep for a block of at least 5 to 6 hours without waking.

The above signs of sleep disorders are the most common and  the easiest to diagnose at home. Sleepiness during the day, problems with focus and memory issues are also symptoms of sleep deprivation. Also look for mood swings, irritability, depression or hyperactivity. If you notice any of these symptoms, it could be time to discuss sleep disorders with your child’s doctor.

What Are the Consequences of Inadequate Sleep?

ADHD is now thought to be caused by lack of sleep in children. When the brain doesn’t have enough time to rest properly, it cannot function correctly. This leads to the inability to focus, sit still or control emotions. It also leads to excessive activity in children.

Sleep disorders can also affect a child’s weight. A study in the BMJ showed a link between children who do not get enough sleep and the tendency to be overweight or even obese. The study showed that there was a 61% decrease in a 7-year-old child’s BMI for each additional hour of sleep.

Sleep deprivation can also cause heart disease. A 2014 study published in The Journal of Pediatrics showed that teenagers who did not get enough sleep were at a higher risk of developing heart disease, stroke and even diabetes. The teenagers who lacked sleep were also at a higher risk of developing joint issues and osteoarthritis later in life.

In addition to health problems, children who don’t get adequate sleep may not be able to learn as strongly as well-rested children. This can lead to a harder time learning and problems in school. Sleep deprived children also exhibit more emotional problems and disorders.

How Much Sleep is Enough Sleep?

A child’s age determines how much sleep they should be getting. The National Sleep Foundation recommendations  are as follows:

  • Less than one year: 12 to 17 hours per day
  • Age one to two years: 11 to 14 hours per day
  • Age three to five years: 10 to 13 hours per day
  • Age six to thirteen: 9 to 11 hours per day
  • Age fourteen to seventeen: 8 to 10 hours per day

During the younger years, a child’s sleep may be broken up between a nap and nighttime sleep. As the child ages, however, napping ceases. This usually occurs around age 4 or 5. After this point, children should receive their hours of sleep consecutively and at night.

How to Help a Child Sleep

As a parent, the best thing you can do is establish a calm and relaxing bedtime routine for your child. Insist that electronics be turned off at least an hour before bedtime. Try bathing your child before bed to help she or he to relax. Set a standard bedtime, and make sure that the room is calm, quiet and dark when putting them to bed.

Consult Dr. Shukla About Your Child’s Sleep Disorder

While you can take some steps to encourage sleep at home, the best treatment for child sleep disorders comes from an experienced physician. A consultation and diagnosis by a sleep disorder expert, such as Dr. Mayank Shukla, is the only sure way to permanently address your child’s sleep disorder. Dr. Shukla will help identify the type and source of your child’s sleep problems. He will then develop a treatment plan to help relieve any problems caused by the sleep deprivation. Call his office today at (212)-661-7077 and help your child sleep better tonight.

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