Loading Results
We have updated our Online Services Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. See our Cookies Notice for information concerning our use of cookies and similar technologies. By using this website or clicking “I ACCEPT”, you consent to our Online Services Terms of Use.

How Lack of Sleep Can Harm a Child's Health

Share
Facebook
X
Pinterest
LinkedIn
Email
Print
University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
sleeping child

When children are young, we tuck them in at night and see them off to school in the morning. As they turn into teenagers, though, it gets harder to track how much time they actually spend asleep. Now a growing body of research shows we need to watch kids’ shuteye at every age.

Sleep’s Deep Effects

“The average child needs between 12 and 18 hours of sleep per day during the first year of life,” says Sally Ibrahim, MD, director of the UH Rainbow Pediatric Sleep Center.

All this sleep helps a baby’s brain develop. As children grow older, they need fewer hours of sleep: 10 to 12 hours a night for preschoolers, at least nine hours for school-age children and eight to nine hours for teens. But the importance of sleep does not fade.

“Healthy and sufficient sleep helps us wake up refreshed, form memories, control our emotions and learn. Inadequate sleep affects how well kids do in school. It also impacts a child’s physical overall well-being,” says Dr. Ibrahim. “The body releases hormones during sleep that aid growth, build muscles and repair cells and tissues.”

Some research suggest that sleep habits are formed very early in the child’s life. So parents have the opportunity to shape sleep behavior in the growing years that can impact sleep in later years and avoid sleep health problems. Without proper sleep, children have higher health risk such as mental functioning, obesity and high risk behaviors.

Cultivate Teen Dreams

While supporting independence in the teen years, parents should still be involved in sleep schedules to help support adequate sleep in the teen years. Some may have sleep problems that need further attention.

First, recognize the signs that your child is not getting enough sleep. Some key signs of lack of sleep include changes in mood (such as irritability), motivation and concentration. Sleepy teens have trouble waking up in the morning, are irritable late in the day, sleep extra long on weekends and/or doze off during the day in school. Make up sleep on the weekends does not adequately address the lack of sleep during the school week.

Next, understand what is keeping your teen awake. “Many factors may play a role, and some – such as early school start times – you cannot control. But some you can,” Dr. Ibrahim says.

What You Can Do

Dr. Ibrahim recommends following these steps to help your child get a good night’s sleep:

  • Encourage a consistent sleeping and waking schedule, weekdays and weekends. The timing of sleep and waking up should ideally be no more than 1-2 hours on weekdays compared with weekends.
  • Avoid all electronics 1 hour before bedtime (e.g. gaming, computers, TV, cell phones). Kids can get into the habit of using these at bedtime, which will delay sleep onset. Consider taking these devices at night and checking them back out in the morning after a peaceful night’s sleep.
  • Help your child create a good sleep environment – a place that is quiet and dark.
  • Limit teens’ caffeine intake, especially energy drinks, and especially in the late afternoon.
  • Create some morning activities on the weekends to keep your child anchored to the appropriate time for waking up.

Consider Other Sleep Disorders

Sometimes a sleep disorder is responsible for poor quality sleep, or difficulty falling or staying asleep. For example, restless legs syndrome can inhibit the ability to go to sleep. Another example is sleep apnea, which is a condition that causes pauses in breathing during sleep and leads to daytime tiredness, fatigue or attention problems. If you think a sleep disorder may be affecting your child, talk with your pediatrician.

Related Links:

The Rainbow Pediatric Sleep Center offers a variety of online resources for children and parents, including age-appropriate sleeping tips and a step-by-step guide to prepare you and your child for a sleep study.

Share
Facebook
X
Pinterest
LinkedIn
Email
Print
Subscribe
RSS