Children’s quality of sleep is a crucial component in their well-being, affecting everything from mood to their ability to learn
When we talk about sleep issues like insomnia and snoring, it’s easy to forget that these aren’t exclusive to adults. Babies, toddlers, and youngsters experience them, too. Children might not be able to verbalize specifically about what’s happening with the quality of their sleep, making it even more imperative that parents be watchful for signs of trouble.
When your child wanders into your bedroom in the wee hours of the morning wide awake, it’s clear there might be sleep issues, but often the signs are much more subtle than that.
6 signs your child may be sleep-deprived
“Sleep influences health, achievement, performance and overall quality of life in both the short and long term,” says Terry Cralle, a registered nurse, certified clinical sleep educator and health and wellness spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council (BSC).
In children, sleep is a crucial component in their growth, development and overall well-being. A study published by medical journal Sleep in an article entitled Sleep and the Developing Brain stated: “The most fundamental requirement for healthy growth and development in young children include: loving support and protection by parents/caretakers, adequate nutrition and adequate sleep.”
According to the BSC, these are the critical signs to watch for in sleep-deprived children:
- Falling asleep often and quickly, for instance, in the car
- Trouble waking a child for school on a regular basis
- Sleeping in on the weekends by several hours
- Rubbing eyes
- Problems in school, including concentration and behavior issues
A child’s mood can speak volumes about their general wellbeing and provide important clues to sleep quality. Frequent bouts of whining, crying, tantrums and an inability to handle stress are important indicators, too.
Children might be short on sleep because of an overly busy schedule or an untreated sleep disorder. The rule of thumb is to consider sleep a “vital sign” – so basic and fundamental to our health, wellbeing, and quality of life that it should be addressed at all healthcare visits.
Parents should be on the lookout for signs such as irritability, trouble falling asleep, waking up at night, having trouble breathing during sleep, loud or heavy breathing or snoring while sleeping, problems in daytime behavior, or falling asleep at school.
“If your child has trouble sleeping, talk to your child’s pediatrician,” suggests Cralle. “Any sleep issues including irritability, trouble falling asleep, waking up at night, having trouble breathing during sleep, and loud or heavy breathing or snoring while sleeping, problems in daytime behavior, falling asleep at school should be brought to the attention of your child’s healthcare provider.”
More news about sleep and a child’s behavior
Insufficient sleep in children is associated with a higher incidence of behavioral problems. Kids who aren’t well-rested often have trouble getting along with others. They’re more likely to have mood swings, struggle with concentrating, feel stressed and experience a lack of motivation. Poor sleep in school-age children might result in hyperactivity and poor academic performance. Tired kids are more prone to accidents and injuries as well.
When behaviors like inattentiveness, impulsivity, and argumentativeness become recurrent, it’s time to consider a lack of sleep as the culprit.
Clearly, sleep is crucial in a child’s life and development. “It influences health, achievement, performance and overall quality of life in both the short and long term,” says Cralle. “The Better Sleep Council believes that sufficient sleep should be a personal, family, classroom and workplace value.”
5 tips for better sleep habits for your kids
Parents can do a lot to shape sleep routines that their kids can follow throughout their lives. There are some basic, yet important, things you can do to help set your kids up for sleep success – for their whole lives.
- Set a consistent bedtime. Routine and consistency are the keys. A regular bedtime strengthens circadian rhythms and helps ensure adequate time for sleep. “Kids will learn what to expect and bedtime will become a non-negotiable part of the day,” explains Cralle. “A regular bedtime also fosters healthy, independent sleep in children.” Begin those patterns early on. In one study, children without consistent bedtimes at age 3 had lower test scores in reading, math and spatial awareness at age 7 than children with regular bedtimes.
- Always put going to bed – and sleep in general – in a positive light. For example, parents should say: “You get to go to bed,” instead “You have to go to bed.” Reinforce to children that sleep is good for all of us. It helps them be a better student, better athlete, better sibling, better friend – and it helps prevent them from becoming ill.
- Choose non-electronic, pre-sleep activities to encourage sufficient sleep. It’s not recommended that a child’s bedroom have a TV. Electronics, especially in the bedroom, interfere with sleep, compromise sleep quality and encroach upon a child’s total sleep time. This is backed up with a study published in the medical journal Pediatrics. It said that screen time was associated with a later sleep onset.
- Keep it clean. Just like adults, children will sleep better in an environment will minimal clutter. Encourage youngsters to keep their bedrooms tidy. Make sure that’s a clear path to avoid any nighttime falls or mishaps.
- Invest in a high quality, supportive mattress for your child. Allow older children to participate in their sleep health by getting involved in their mattress selection process. Use a mattress protector to minimize these allergens and keep the mattress cleaner.
Rest well & wake up ready to go!
Better sleep gives rise to better mornings, bringing your goals into focus and dreams within reach. Hungry for more sleep info? Dig into these posts:
- Get planting – 5 health benefits of trees
- Back to school, back to sleep – making sleep a priority this fall
- 11 reasons why you wake in the middle of the night and what to do about it