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.

Reply
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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Let them know …

Anxiety shows up to check that you’re okay, not to tell you that you’re not. It’s your brain’s way of saying, ‘Not sure - there might be some trouble here, but there might not be, but just in case you should be ready for it if it comes, which it might not – but just in case you’d better be ready to run or fight – but it might be totally fine.’ Brains can be so confusing sometimes! 

You have a brain that is strong, healthy and hardworking. It’s magnificent and it’s doing a brilliant job of doing exactly what brains are meant to do – keep you alive. 

Your brain is fabulous, but it needs you to be the boss. Here’s how. When you feel anxious, ask yourself two questions:

- ‘Do I feel like this because I’m in danger or because there’s something brave or important I need to do?’

- Then, ‘Is this a time for me to be safe (sometimes it might be) or is this a time for me to be brave?

And remember, you will always have ‘brave’ in you, and anxiety doesn’t change that a bit.♥️

#positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #parenting #childanxiety #heywarrior #heywarriorbook
The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️

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