Sleep deprivation in children: symptoms and consequences

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Sleep deprivation in children: symptoms and consequences


Due to the hectic and digitized life of the 21st century, children today sleep about an hour less per night than they did 30 years ago. It may not seem like much, but that hour less can have big consequences. Children’s brains are still developing. This means that one hour less sleep is much more harmful than one hour of sleep lost in adults.

Read also: Sleep schedule: how much sleep does your child need?

How do you recognize sleep deprivation in children?

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If your child sleeps too little, you can recognize this by certain behaviors that you may also perform after a period of little sleep:
  • Difficulty waking up. This could be a sign that your child either fell asleep too late or did not sleep deeply enough.
  • be in a bad mood. Little sleep affects your child’s mood. He may get angry or start crying more quickly.
  • Take a nap. If your child sleeps all the time during the day, this may indicate a lack of sleep.

Read also: What if your child is scared in his room? Sleep coach Nathalie gives advice

Consequences of sleep deprivation in children

  • If children structurally get too little sleep, they can gain weight. Those who do not sleep enough produce more hunger hormones and stress hormones. Both ensure that you are hungrier and therefore want to eat more.
  • Due to lack of sleep, children are less able to store new information and they are also less able to control themselves. As a result, their learning ability suffers.
  • Less growth. During sleep, the pituitary gland produces growth hormone. If this hormone is not produced in sufficient quantities, a child will grow less quickly.
  • Your child may eventually show more aggressive behavior and become more emotionally unstable. Researchers even see a link between sleep deprivation in a child and the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD.

Also read: “Help, my child wakes up way too early”

Tips for a better night’s sleep for your child

Fortunately, as a parent you can take an active role in improving your child’s sleep quality. A few tips:
  • Make sure your child is relaxed before going to bed. For example, a warm bath can help.
  • Set a sleep ritual. Carrying out the same steps every night before bed – for example, brushing your teeth, reading a book, turning off the light – can promote sleep.
  • Spend quality time with your child. Set aside time for your child before you go to bed. Ask about his day, strike up a conversation or give him a hug. Your child will calm down from such actions.
  • Ban electronics. Make the bedroom an electronics-free zone. Start the sleep routine early enough so that your child is away from screens at least 1 hour before bedtime.
If you suspect that the problem is more serious, you can also consult a doctor. He may be able to create a sleep plan, identify an underlying condition such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome, or refer you to a specialist.

Also read: What if your child falls asleep after school?


Last updated: January 2023

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