Sleep Deprivation in Children

Sleep Deprivation in Children

Sleep deprivation in children is a real problem, and can effect every aspect of their well being.

As parents, it is our job to make sure that our children are getting the sleep that they need, and help them get back on track when their sleep pattern gets off schedule.

If you feel that your baby or child may be sleep deprived, it is important for you to step in as soon as possible. Sleep deprivation in children can have long term effects on a child, and should be dealt with right away.

"Early brain development, learning, and memory
are all supported by good sleep nutrition."

Sleep Deprivation in Babies

Babies from the age of newborn to 12 months need somewhere between 14 to 18 hours of sleep per 24 hour period. This sleep should be broken up into a few small naps during the day, and a long sleep at night.

Research reported in Nature Neuroscience indicates that early brain development, learning, and memory are all supported by good sleep nutrition, while sleep disruption has been linked to behavioral and emotional problems.

Most sleep deprived babies show some signs of chronic overtiredness: cranky or fussy behavior, dark circles under the eyes or redness around the eyes, or lots of whining and crying throughout the day. Some babies, on the other hand, are miraculously even tempered even when sleep deprived, and manage to remain cheerful and happy during the day.

If you think that your baby is sleep deprived, it is important to establish a good sleep routine that will allow him or her to get the required hours of sleep. Even though it's sometimes hard to see, a baby's fatigue takes a toll on their development. If not resolved, sleep disturbances that start in infancy often continue into later childhood and correlate strongly with emotional, behavioral, and health problems as children grow older.

In a long-term study in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, infants who suffered from chronic sleep deprivation were much more likely at 5 years old and 10 years old to continue suffering from sleep problems than were children who slept well as babies.

Child Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation in children has long been overlooked as a key contributor to kids' physical and behavioral problems. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), "Problem sleepiness has serious children, it increases the risk of accidents and injuries. In addition, lack of sleep can have a negative effect on children's performance in school, on the playground, in extracurricular activities, and in social relationships."

Symptoms of sleep deprivation in children include:

  • Tiredness
  • Difficulties with focused attention
  • Irritability
  • Easy Frustration
  • Difficulty controlling impulses
  • Difficulty controlling emotions
  • Less physical coordination
  • Increased behavioral ups and downs

To develop to their optimum potential physically, emotionally, and cognitively, children need to get the proper amount of sleep based on their age(refer to our sleep requirements by age chart).

If they fall short of what they need, kids are deprived of one of the most important foundations they need to be healthy. Your child's body, brain and emotions are all affected when they are sleep deprived.

"For children, tyring to get through the day on too little sleep is like trying to get through a day on junk food. At some point their body says 'Hey, I'm in danger here. I don't have enough fuel to keep going.'"

When to Seek Medical Advice for a Sleep Deprived Child:

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my child difficult to wake up most mornings?
  • Is my child lacking in energy?
  • Does my child refuse meals because he's too tired to eat?
  • Does my child have difficulty settling to sleep because she is overstimulated?
  • Is my child often irritable or cranky at about the same time every day?
  • Have teachers reported that my child has trouble paying attention or staying awake in school?
  • Are our family's nights disturbed because of our child's nighttime wakings?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, it may be time to bring the problem to your pediatrician's attention.

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Ferber, Richard, M.D. Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1985.

Waldburger, Jennifer, and Jill Spivack. The Sleep Easy Solution: The Exhausted Parent's Guide to Getting Your Child to Sleep from Birth to Age 5. Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications, Inc, 2007: 2-9.