It doesn’t matter what how old you are, getting enough sleep is vital to memory development and living a healthy life. As you age, the amount of sleep required to function at optimal performance decreases, yet you may overlook sleep deprivation as a reason your days are sluggish and you feel unmotivated. But let’s focus on how sleep deprivation can affect our kids; it may be worse than you previously thought.
The average child, aged between 3 and 12, needs roughly 10-13 hours of sleep per night. The younger the child is, the more sleep they will need. Sleep plays an important role in brain development, coordination and can often cause developing attention disorders like ADD (attention deficit disorder). One issue parents may face is not recognizing if their child is sleep deprived. It can sometimes be hard as we mistake these telltale signs for normal child-like behavior. Some of the signs to watch for are:
Difficulty waking up: Any kid, and often teenagers as well, hate to wake up in the morning. We adults call this “the case of the Mondays.” Aside from your kids inability to wake up, which may seem like a normal reaction at those ages, look deeper into what is happening. Does it take a long time to wake them and get them out of bed? Pay attention to what time your child goes to bed and limit any stimulating activities before bedtime.
Difficulty staying awake: This area can be masked by your child’s playtime activities. Sometimes your kids have an exhausting play session outside running around, and when they come inside they are so tired that all they can do is sleep. This is completely normal for kids, but be concerned if there were no activities. If your child falls asleep during the day or needs to take naps, yet hasn’t been doing any activity that would make him tired, he may be sleep deprived and trying to make up for lost sleep.
Difficulty concentrating: Now, don’t think every child is sleep deprived just because they do not focus. It comes with being a child. A shiny spoon might be more interesting to them than a homework assignment. Also, do not ignore his inability to concentrate on a task at hand and shrug it off as being a kid. They may be unfocused, unmotivated or even moody because of their lack of concentration. This might be attributed to sleep deprivation as it affects our ability to focus and function.
Bad behavior: Don’t jump the gun and assume your child is sleep deprived because they are misbehaving, but be cautious. Sleep deprivation can make a child more moody and defiant than usual. If you suspect his foul mood is increasing and becoming more frequent, it may be due to lack of sleep.
Frequent sickness: A common characteristic of sleep deprivation is a poor immune system. When anyone gets insufficient sleep, your body cannot properly rest and heal. Not getting proper rest can lower how effective your immune system is, making you more susceptible to catching a cold. Children’s immune systems are still building up tolerances, and not having it up to par while growing can negate how effective it is at stopping your child from becoming sick.
You may be saying to yourself, my kid shows most of these signs, and sleeps perfectly fine. And that may very well be true. A lot of signs for sleep deprivation are also signs of being a normal and healthy child. It is only when these signs may become slightly altered and more aggressive that it could be a signal of something more. As a parent, if you suspect something may be off with your child and that sleep deprivation could be the culprit, look closer into the daily and nightly behaviors of your child. It may also be an allergy that is keeping them from getting quality sleep and resulting in some different behavior. Kids come in all different shapes and sizes, as well as reasons why they are not getting enough sleep. Don’t become alarmed, just be observant. Getting your child the best sleep possible will help him develop and mature both mentally and physically.