Late nights and the stresses of just being a kid combined with early school start times is enough to deprive our children of essential sleep. And sleep is a critical part of a child’s health and development.
Sleep deprivation – whether too short or of poor quality – can cause specific changes in your child’s health, academic performance, and behavior. It can affect how your child thinks, feels and functions, and ultimately, impacts his or her ability to excel at school. Insufficient sleep is also associated with daytime fatigue, the inability to concentrate in school, ADHD, a tendency to doze off in class, problematic behaviors, and lower levels of social skills.
Sleeplessness can wreak havoc, but it doesn’t need to. Here are some best practices to prevent and treat your child’s inadequate sleep.
How Does Sleep Deprivation Affect My Child?
Not getting enough sleep can negatively impact your child’s academic performance – especially with kids with learning and attention disorders. Here are four ways lack of sleep can make learning even more challenging.
Limits Planning and Organizational Skills. Sleeplessness can temporarily impair the area of the brain responsible for organization, planning, and problem solving. Fatigued kids may find it more difficult to prioritize their homework and pace themselves during tests.
Worsens Mood and Behavior. Moodiness is a common side effect of inadequate sleep. When your child is overtired, they become moody, impulsive or easily frustrated. Loss of temper or patience can encourage your child to give up on challenging work more quickly.
Hampers Memory. Sleeplessness can have a negative impact on the short-term and long-term memory. It is harder for a sleep-deprived brain to focus, making it more difficult to retain new information. Overtired kids may work more slowly because it is difficult for them to remember what they’ve just learned.
Reduces Focus and Attention. Lack of sleep can result in lapses of sleep-like patterns while your child is awake. These daytime “micro-sleeps” can lead to spacing out during class, and is most common in kids with ADHD. Students who don’t get enough sleep may be more easily distracted and make more careless errors.
Signs & Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
Whether your child is a toddler or school age, the following signs may indicate sleep deprivation:
- Overly emotional (i.e. temper tantrums, easily hurt feelings, lack of patience)
- Difficulty to wake up in the morning
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
- Taking long, excessive naps
- Defiant behavior and misconduct
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Increased appetite
- Excessive talking than normal or frenzied conversation
Prevention and Treatment Options
If you suspect that your child isn’t getting enough good sleep, you can help him or her get more sleep by following these tips:
Know How Much Sleep Your Child Needs. Toddlers and preschoolers need an average of 13 hours of sleep, broken up between two hours of naps and 11 hours of sleep at night. Here is a guideline for children of different ages.
- 3 months – 1 year need about 14 – 15 hours a day.
- 1 – 3 years should sleep for 12 – 14 hours a day.
- 3 – 5 years need 11 – 12 hours of sleep a day.
- 6 – 12 years require sleep for 10 – 11 hours a day.
- 12 – 18 years should sleep between 8.5 – 9.5 hours a day.
Limit Distractions and Disruptions During Sleep. Stress, electronics usage, food, and sleep environment all contribute to sleep quality – be it in good or bad ways. Institute healthy sleep hygiene habits by:
- Avoiding caffeinated products 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
- Removing stimulating activities (i.e. TV watching, electronic gaming, homework, or computer gaming) within an hour of bedtime.
- Maintaining a bedroom that is quiet, calm, comfortable, and dark.
- Setting your child’s bedtime around the adequate hours of sleep needed each night.
Schedule a Consultation
There are numerous factors that contribute to inadequate and poor sleep in children. If your child is suffering from inadequate sleep, it may be time to discuss a prevention and treatment plan with your doctor. Join our many satisfied patients, and schedule an appointment with Dr. Shukla today for treatment options.