SLEEP DEPRIVATION IN CHILDREN
Behavioural changes can help break the sleep deprivation cycle in children.
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: