The new school year is upon us, and children are forced to go back to their regular school sleep schedules. This may mean that they’re getting less sleep than in the summer months, and for many parents, sleep deprivation is a real concern.
Sleep deprivation affects every aspect of the child’s life, from friends and family relationships to school performance to their daily behavior. Studies have shown that sleep deprived children have more difficulty focusing and staying on task. However, they may also have more impulsive or defiant behavior.
Lack of sleep can affect your child’s school performance in two major ways.
First, when children are in class, they can have trouble paying attention because of their difficulty focusing. They can miss important verbal lessons due to inattention or they may be unable to complete tasks in the classroom.
Second, children form their memories best during sleep. Children who sleep well at night will remember the previous day’s lessons better than children who are sleep deprived.
When adults become sleepy, they will typically slow down. If they stop moving and are in a comfortable place without stimulation, they may fall asleep. However, sleep deprivation can have the opposite effect on children, causing them to become more energetic and even hyperactive.
It is recommended that adults get an average of eight hours of sleep per night, but kids need more. Young children need more than 12 hours per night. For example, a 5-year-old needs about 12 hours per night, a 10-year-old needs about 10 hours per night, and by the time children are in their teenage years, they need nine hours per night.
Young children need more than 12 hours per night.
Your child can probably handle missing one hour of sleep one night. However, if they miss one hour of sleep for multiple nights, it is as if they missed two hours of sleep on the second night. By the third night, it is as if they missed three hours, and so on. This creates a sleep debt. By the end of the week, the sleep debt can be so great that the child cannot make it up on the weekends and can become chronically sleep deprived.
In addition to getting plenty of sleep, it is important that children get quality sleep as well. Multiple medical conditions, such as obstructive sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, nocturnal seizures or parasomnias can affect the quality of sleep.
Children who have symptoms of these conditions may require an overnight sleep study to diagnose them. An overnight polysomnogram, or sleep study, is the gold standard for diagnosing obstructive sleep apnea or other nocturnal sleeping conditions.
In summary, it is important for children to get a good quality and quantity of sleep each night. Once they have achieved this, parents can be confident that their children can fill their potential.
This blog post was contributed by Joseph B. Rosen, MD, a pediatric pulmonologist and sleep doctor on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.