10 Signs Your Kid Isn't Getting Enough Sleep
The days are getting shorter, school is back in session, and your child is cranky, clingy, emotional, and sluggish. Sleep — or lack of it — could be an issue, especially if you were a little lax over the summer and loosened up on bedtimes and wake-up times. Here are some hints your child isn't getting enough sleep, and some ideas of what to do about it.
Overtired kids can actually seem quite hyper. In fact, hyperactivity was one of the issues documented in a five-year study called the Tucson Children's Assessment of Sleep Apnea. Among other issues, hyperactivity was six times higher in kids with persistent sleep apnea and sleep-related problems than kids who slept better.
Hyperactivity also it leads to more problems, since it gets worse leading up to bedtime and keeps kids from settling down and falling asleep — prolonging the process and exacerbating issues from not logging enough z's at night.
It's mostly preteens and teens who go the more obvious route: having a hard time staying awake when overtired. If you need to wake a child multiple times in the morning, if they nap at odd times, sleep excessively on weekends, or in general complain of being tired, you may want to evaluate how many hours of sleep they actually get each night.
In babies, lack of sleep presents as being fussy and clingy. In school-age kids, it can present as separation anxiety. In teens, it's often seen as mood swings, anxiety, aggression, nervousness, and irritability.
Sleep problems closely mirror signs of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. These could be problems concentrating, problems listening, and problems focusing.
Attention problems can lead to academic problems. According to the Tucson Children's study, children with sleep issues that presented with attention and other behavioral problems also had low academic performance.
While snoring might suggest sound sleep, it can actually be an indication a child isn't sleeping enough. It can indicate sleep-disordered breathing such as sleep apnea, and is worth getting checked by a doctor. While a child and parents may not even know there's a problem, the disorders can cause disruptive sleep and result in more problems than just snoring.
Sleep terrors and sleepwalking are closely related — they occur in the same sleep cycle and can be brought on by the same things. While afflicting about 40 percent of young kids, they are generally outgrown. But night terrors and sleepwalking can be triggered by being overtired or from disruptions to a normal sleep schedule.
Lack of sleep has been linked to metabolic changes in people of all ages, but in particular in children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree: When children don't get enough sleep to support their developing brain, it affects their ability to control appetite and expel energy.
If there isn't a medical condition causing problems such as sleep-disordered breathing or sleep apnea, increase the length or quality of sleep: Put in place consistent bedtime and wake-up times, even on the weekends; and a calming bedtime routine that does not include the use of electronics; ensure there's a dark and comfortable bedroom to sleep in; regular exercise throughout the day; and a nutritious diet that avoids caffeine and large meals right before bedtime.
If you've tried these solutions and provide every opportunity for a child to get enough sleep, but they still show signs of a lack of sleep, you may want to seek help. Snoring, repeated night terrors, and sleepwalking episodes should be mentioned to your child's doctor.
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