SLEEP DE­PRI­VA­TION IN CHIL­DREN

Be­havioural changes can help break the sleep de­pri­va­tion cy­cle in chil­dren.

Great Health Guide - - CONTENTS - Kim Corley

Sleep de­pri­va­tion in chil­dren is some­thing that more and more chil­dren are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing. It’s a vi­cious cy­cle that can lead to emo­tional and be­havioural is­sues. How­ever, an un­der­stand­ing of the is­sue and in­tro­duc­ing some ba­sic be­havioural changes, can be key to break­ing the cy­cle.

Sleep is still a rel­a­tively new field com­pared to other health ini­tia­tives, but re­search sug­gests it could be the sin­gle most im­por­tant fac­tor in de­ter­min­ing how long we live. Lack of sleep is no longer a badge of hon­our. As­so­ci­ated with par­ent­ing, is an ex­pec­ta­tion of sleep de­pri­va­tion. When you bring your new baby home, you do have to wake fre­quently through­out the night for feeds and those night feeds can play havoc with our adult body clocks.

At a cer­tain point, ba­bies should start con­sol­i­dat­ing their night sleep into longer stretches and drop night feeds. Sleep is im­por­tant for growth and de­vel­op­ment, and good con­sol­i­dated night sleep is vi­tal. If a poor sleep habit in a child be­comes the nor­mal, then every­one suf­fers. Chil­dren need good qual­ity sleep, much more than the 7- 9 hrs rec­om­mended for adults. If you are fre­quently get­ting up to your child at night, or they are hav­ing dif­fi­culty fall­ing asleep at bed­time, chances are you’re start­ing to feel

ex­hausted. If you are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sleep de­pri­va­tion, there is a very strong like­li­hood that your child is also feel­ing its ef­fects. How­ever, it’s not al­ways as easy to spot. When chil­dren are over­tired, they present very dif­fer­ently to an adult. Adults strug­gling with lack of sleep are slow and slug­gish dur­ing the day. But an over­tired child will be­come hy­per­ac­tive and ‘wired’. In­deed, sleep de­pri­va­tion in chil­dren mim­ics the symp­toms of At­ten­tion De­fi­cient Hy­per­ac­tiv­ity Dis­or­der (ADHD). You can see more silli­ness, ex­ces­sive en­ergy and emo­tional out­bursts, es­pe­cially in tod­dlers and older chil­dren. In young ba­bies, over tired­ness can present as fussi­ness, ir­ri­tabil­ity or ex­ces­sive cry­ing, mak­ing it al­most im­pos­si­ble to help them set­tle. Young chil­dren have an op­ti­mal wake time. Af­ter this point they will get tired and that is when sleep helps re­ju­ve­nate them. How­ever, if a child sur­passes this point, their bod­ies can over com­pen­sate and start revving up with stim­u­lat­ing hor­mones to keep them awake. This se­cond wind that chil­dren dis­play, of­ten leads par­ents to be­lieve that their child isn’t tired and doesn’t need much sleep. It’s an easy pit to fall into if you don’t know the dif­fer­ence, but this can lead to a vi­cious cy­cle of more sleep de­pri­va­tion in chil­dren. While med­i­cal is­sues can im­pact on sleep qual­ity, a large ma­jor­ity of child­hood sleep is­sues are be­havioural. Ba­sic sleep hy­giene can be key to break­ing the sleep de­pri­va­tion cy­cle in these cir­cum­stances:

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