What To Do With Sleep Deprivation In Kids

What To Do With Sleep Deprivation In Kids
By Joanna Santillan

Sleep deprivation is a root cause of many problems that shows up almost every day: fatigue, learning and concentration difficulties, and accidents. Everyone can be affected by sleep deprivation, especially children. Why? Because there are a lot of things that capture their attention nowadays. They get caught up with most of these and forget to log a full length of sleep.

Sleep is as important to the human body as food and water, but many of us don’t get enough sleep. Insufficient sleep, inadequate quality of sleep or disruptions to the sleep-wake cycle has very unhealthy consequences on how we function.

Effects of Sleep Loss on Children.

The subject of sleep loss on both adults and children is quite a well-studied one. Many research and studies have said the following about sleep loss on children:

  • Sleep loss causes a range of schooling problems, including naughtiness and poor concentration.
  • Chronically sleep-deprived teenagers are more likely to have problems with impulse control, which leads to risk-taking behaviours.
  • Sleep problems in teenagers are associated with increased risk of disorders such as depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • High school students who regularly score C, D or F in school tests and assignments get, on average, half an hour less sleep per night than high school students who regularly get A and B grades.

How much sleep is enough?

Sleep requirements differ from one person to the other, depending on age, physical activity levels, general health and other individual factors. But in general:

  • Primary school children – need about nine to 10 hours of sleep. Studies show that increasing your child’s sleep by as little as half an hour can dramatically improve school performance.
  • Teenagers – need about nine to 10 hours too. However, they have the most difficulty in maintaining a healthy sleep pattern because of increased social engagements and peer pressure. These cause a reduction in sleep time.
  • Adults – need about eight hours, depending on individual factors. Adults tend to need less sleep, but be guided by your state of alertness – if you feel tired during the day, aim to get more sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation offers this guideline regarding how many hours of sleep a child should get during a 24 hour period:

  • Newborns (birth to 2 months): 10.5 – 18 hours
  • Infants (3-11 months): 9-12 hours
  • Toddlers (age 1-3): 12-14 hours
  • Preschoolers (age 3-5): 11-13 hours
  • School-age (age 5-12): 10-11 hours
  • Adolescent (age12 – 18): at least 8 1/2 hours

It’s vital for your children to have enough sleep. When they have enough sleep, they can function right throughout the day.

Tips to help your children to have enough sleep.

  1. Set up a sleep schedule.

    Sleep is set up by an instinct called the Circadian rhythms, or the sleep-wake cycle. This is regulated by light and dark, and these rhythms take time to develop. That’s why you need to establish a sleep schedule.

    It’s easy to follow a sleep pattern when it’s organized in a schedule. If you get any resistance from your kids, that’s quite natural. Just explain to them that when they get enough sleep, they’ll become healthy and they will perform better at school and at play.

    Just remember to be consistent with this schedule. Adjust your family activities according to this sleep schedule. 

  2. Make their bedrooms conducive for rest.

    Take a bath/bathe them before going to sleep. Read them a bedtime story. Set a relaxing music, and give them a goodnight hug and kiss. Improve their sleeping environment in any way you can. Keep it dark and soundproof, turn off lights. If possible, takeaway any source of distraction. (ex. TV, computer) Make sure that there environment is cool and quiet.

  3. Never use sleep as a punishment to your child.

    When your kids show bad behaviour, don’t use sleep as punishment. You must encourage sleep as a positive action so they’ll understand that sleep will help them grow big and strong.

  4. Give your babies a breath of fresh air.

    The almost abandoned custom of giving a baby plenty of daily fresh air may have a hidden benefit in helping a baby to sleep better at night, according to research. A study has found that babies sleep longer when exposed to plenty of light in the afternoon, a time when many mothers used to put babies in the garden or take them to a park.

  5. Buy them a reminder.

    You can give them teddy bears, stuff toys, pillows, and blankets. These are called transitional objects. Transitional objects help them remind themselves to fall asleep. This way, parents don’t have to be there in order for their kids to fall asleep.

  6. See a sleep specialist.

    If you’ve done every possible tip on this list and nothing seems to work, go see a sleep specialist. Your child can be placed in a lot of stress and his/her health might be compromised.

  7. Refrain from any physical activities hours before sleeping.

    Physical activities increases the adrenalin output in your blood, making you more alert and focused. Good for certain situations, but not before sleeping. So make sure your child is relaxed before going to bed. Use relaxation techniques to help them fall asleep quickly.

Remember

Not getting enough sleep due to sleep disruptions and short sleep cycles can cause reduced alertness, concentration & awareness, slower reaction time, poorer memory, moodiness, loss of motivation, forgetfulness, poor decision making, and microsleep (brief periods of involuntary sleeping that range from a few seconds to a few minutes in duration).

As you can see, these effects are huge contributing factors in the performance level of your child in school and at play, and in his/her growth process. So the notion of just letting loss of sleep pass is out of the conversation. This is an urgent and important issue that must be addressed immediately so no bad thing can happen to your child.


Joanna SantillanAbout the Author: Joanna Santillan

With a desire to make life easier for mums in UAE, Joanna – with the help of her husband -started Afterschool.ae, the first platform dedicated in listing all UAE kid’s activities for parents and children alike. She is an entrepreneur mum blessed with 3 lovely children.

Joanna can be found on Facebook and Google+

7 Comments

Nadia

This is more like a question. My 3 year old NEVER naps. She gets about 10-11 hours of sleep at night, but is a huge nap refuser.

What is a parent to do? The article mentions to not use naps as a punishment. In her case, if if I were to send her to her room, tuck her in and say, “Time for a nap” and then she begins to cry, wouldn’t she consider that a punishment in her mind?

Reply
Hey Sigmund

It may be that your daughter doesn’t need a nap. Though many three year olds still need a nap, there are many who don’t. If she has been resisting all this time, and still getting a good amount of sleep at night, I certainly wouldn’t force the issue with her. Explore other ways for her to recharge that involve quiet play, rather than sleep.

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Karen

From jr high on, my daughter engaged in a vicious cycle of working late into the night to do homework and rising early to go to school. The more tired she was, the longer her homework took to do. She did nothing else, often sleeping through her one extra curricular activity. We spent hours everyday trying to get her through her day. In her Jr. year of high school, she was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder (ocd) and treated with meds. and therapy. Also took her to a sleep specialist. Still no progress on sleep or work habits. We found a therapist in her senior year who told her that there was nothing he or anyone could do for her if she didn’t get regular 8 hrs of sleep. I was so happy to finally get support for this. He “prescribed” melatonin an hour before a corrected bedtime. It worked like a charm. A half hour after taking it, she would be flopped on her bed sound asleep. Usually fully dressed. A few months later, she is now getting ready for bed on time, getting herself up and to her summer job, making new friends and planning social events. Her quality of life has improved dramatically and the stress on everyone around her is gone.

Reply
Karen

Thank you. That is excellent advice. The melatonin was checked with her prescribing physician first!
It is not always the right thing for teens.
My main point is meant to be that getting the right sleep has made a huge difference. Thank you for another helpful article.

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Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
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But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
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When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
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But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
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What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
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In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
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#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare
Separation anxiety has an important job to do - it’s designed to keep children safe by driving them to stay close to their important adults. Gosh it can feel brutal sometimes though.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person there will be anxiety unless there are two things: attachment with another trusted, loving adult; and a felt sense of you holding on, even when you aren't beside them. Putting these in place will help soften anxiety.

As long as children are are in the loving care of a trusted adult, there's no need to avoid separation. We'll need to remind ourselves of this so we can hold on to ourselves when our own anxiety is rising in response to theirs. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it's more than an adult being present. It needs an adult who, through their strong, warm, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for that child, and their joy in doing so. This can be helped along by showing that you trust the adult to love that child big in our absence. 'I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.'

To help your young one feel held on to by you, even in absence, let them know you'll be thinking of them and can't wait to see them. Bolster this by giving them something of yours to hold while you're gone - a scarf, a note - anything that will be felt as 'you'.

They know you are the one who makes sure their world is safe, so they’ll be looking to you for signs of safety: 'Do you think we'll be okay if we aren't together?' First, validate: 'You really want to stay with me, don't you. I wish I could stay with you too! It's hard being away from your special people isn't it.' Then, be their brave. Let it be big enough to wrap around them so they can rest in the safety and strength of it: 'I know you can do this, love. We can do hard things can't we.'

Part of growing up brave is learning that the presence of anxiety doesn't always mean something is wrong. Sometimes it means they are on the edge of brave - and being away from you for a while counts as brave.
Even the most loving, emotionally available adult might feel frustration, anger, helplessness or distress in response to a child’s big feelings. This is how it’s meant to work. 

Their distress (fight/flight) will raise distress in us. The purpose is to move us to protect or support or them, but of course it doesn’t always work this way. When their big feelings recruit ours it can drive us more to fight (anger, blame), or to flee (avoid, ignore, separate them from us) which can steal our capacity to support them. It will happen to all of us from time to time. 

Kids and teens can’t learn to manage big feelings on their own until they’ve done it plenty of times with a calm, loving adult. This is where co-regulation comes in. It helps build the vital neural pathways between big feelings and calm. They can’t build those pathways on their own. 

It’s like driving a car. We can tell them how to drive as much as we like, but ‘talking about’ won’t mean they’re ready to hit the road by themselves. Instead we sit with them in the front seat for hours, driving ‘with’ until they can do it on their own. Feelings are the same. We feel ‘with’, over and over, until they can do it on their own. 

What can help is pausing for a moment to see the behaviour for what it is - a call for support. It’s NOT bad behaviour or bad parenting. It’s not that.

Our own feelings can give us a clue to what our children are feeling. It’s a normal, healthy, adaptive way for them to share an emotional load they weren’t meant to carry on their own. Self-regulation makes space for us to hold those feelings with them until those big feelings ease. 

Self-regulation can happen in micro moments. First, see the feelings or behaviour for what it is - a call for support. Then breathe. This will calm your nervous system, so you can calm theirs. In the same way we will catch their distress, they will also catch ours - but they can also catch our calm. Breathe, validate, and be ‘with’. And you don’t need to do more than that.

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