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Children and Sleep: Causes, Effects, and Treatments of Lack of Sleep

Brother And Sister Sleeping In Bed With Teddy Bear

Sleep is just as vital as food for the health of a child. In the last decade, several types of research have been carried out on how to best understand the effect of sleep on a child’s health, its overall impact on behaviour, and mental health.

A study carried out by The UK Millennium Cohort, which analyzed sleep data from more than 10,000 children between the age of 3-7 years. This research also included a report from mothers, and teachers showed a clear link between a child’s behaviour and sleep.

Also, further studies on the effect of sleep on child’s behaviour  were carried out by the journal ‘pediatric’. It concluded that irregular bedtime might disrupt the natural body’s rhythms and lead to sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation could hinder proper brain maturation and the ability to control specific behaviours.

As an adult, regular and good quality sleep is a must if you want to function effectively during the day, and this is the same for children.

Benefits of Sleep on a Child’s Health and Behavior

Most parents have come to realize that sleep has a direct link to the mode of children and learning capacity and behaviour.

Also, a proper bedtime rest is highly essential to good health as it reduces the tendency for becoming overweight and developing diabetes.

In summary, some of the known benefits of sleep include:

Sleep Promotes Growth

Growth hormone is mainly released when asleep. Some mothers have even claimed to wake up noticing their baby got bigger overnight. Generally, mothers try to make sure their babies spend about 50% of their time asleep, which is imperative for proper growth.

Growth hormone is less in children who get a little amount of sleep as compared to kids who get more sleep time.

Sleep Is Beneficial for the Heart

There are lots of research on how sleep protects children from vascular damage. Circulating stress hormones tend to increase with less amount of sleep.

Lack of proper rest due to a sleep disorder or excessive brain stimulation trigger the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and Fright and flight hormone (adrenaline). Adrenaline raises the blood sugar level and increases the stress placed on the heart.

Sleep Prevents Overweight

Current evidence has shown that sleep-deprived children have a higher risk of becoming obese. Having a good night’s rest facilitates reasonable control of the body’s metabolism, which keeps overweight in check.

Little Boy Sleeping in His Bed

This check done Is with the help of hormones such as leptin. Leptin released Is as a signal which stops eating. Lack of sleep impacts the release of this hormone, which leads to the lack of the message to stop eating when filled. In turn, This leads to overeating and could lead to obesity.

Sleep Strengthens the Immune System

When asleep, the body releases unique proteins known as Cytokines, which helps the body in fighting infection stress and illness. A further effect of this cytokinesis that it induces sleep.

Lack of sleep reduces the number of cytokines available for fighting off germs. This Reduction impairs the body’s ability to fight off bacteria and other infections.

Sleep Reduces Injury Risks

Sleep-deprived children tend to clumsier and hyperactive, which could lead to an accident. In sport, proper sleep time improves.

Sleep Increases Attentiveness

Lack of Sleep in children increases restlessness and impulsiveness, which can lead to distractions. Having a proper night rest increases the ability to concentrate and focus.

This benefit is because sleep enables kids to control their emotions, thereby decreasing the risk of distractions.

Sleep Boost Learning

Sleep aids learning for children of all ages. Parents should take note of the fact that proper night time rest of sleep is highly essential for learning.

Experts have found out that children with adequate bedtime learn faster and better than those who are sleep deprived. Not only does sleep improve better education, but it also enhances memory, which can lead to better academic performance and other aspects of the learning process.

Consequences of Lack of Sleep on a Child’s Health and Behavior

The consequences of lack of sleep are noticeable after just a few days or fewer hours of rest. An adult need about 7-8 and kids need even more time to function correctly. Lack of a sufficient amount of sleep has harmful side effects on kids.

It is surprising how quickly children can fall into the danger zone with lack of sleep. Behavioural problems are some of the prevalent difficulties among sleep-deprived children.

Some well-known consequences of sleep include:

Emotional Problems

Kids who don’t sleep enough tend to be more irritable, and have difficulty regulating emotions. Which leads to mode swings and depression in children, especially those in early teens.

Sleep-deprived children tend to develop social anxiety, which makes it hard to function socially. It leads to psychological problems, restlessness, aggressive behaviour, and mood problems.

Obesity and Diabetes

Lack of Sleep disrupts body hormones responsible for controlling appetite and hence body weight. Some hormones accountable for this are ghrelin and leptin.

The levels of these two hormones are greatly affected by sleep. Lack of sleep leads to the release of insulin, which increases the bodies storage of fat and increases the possibility of developing type 2 diabetes.

Poor Academic Performance

Lack of sleep leads to forgetfulness and inability to concentrate and other cognitive problems, which causes poor school performances.

Behavioral Problems

The effect of sleep deprivation on neurobehavioral functioning in kids is well known. Though it varies from age to age, the all show similarity in that it has an adverse neurological effect on kids, especially those with a little amount of sleep.

Researches carried out so far on the impact of sleep on children suggest that rest has a vital role in daytime functioning.

Recent studies carried out include standardized measures of attention and memory, as a means of clarifying the more specific neurobehavioral effect of sleep problems in children.

Child Sleeping with Toy

Children with behavioural problems experience impulsive habits; attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). And autistic spectrum disorder(ASD), which are common among deprived sleep children.

ADHD and shorter sleeping time are reflections of too little amount of sleep. Kids with ADHD are found to experience more day time fatigue and sleepiness during the day.

Weak Immune System

Inadequate sleep decreases the body’s capability to fight off infection, which is as a result of the weakness of the immune system.

Increase Susceptibility to Injury

Among children who engage in sports, multiple studies have shown that sleep deprivations harm them. It increases the risk of having sports injuries.

In recent research of middle and high school-aged children, those with a little amount of sleep had nearly twice the risk of becoming injured than those with at least up to 9-10 hours of sleep.

Increase in sleep increases concentration and reaction times in sport, which reduces injury risk for children who participate in sport.

The human growth hormone is highly essential for tissue repair and muscle development since it is primarily secreted during sleep, more sleep Hasting healing, and recovering time.

Causes of Lack of Sleep in Children

Too Much Screen Time

It is one of the most alarming reasons for sleep deprivation and is especially prevalent among young children and teens, in general, is the rise of screens.

More screen time Is associated with difficulty falling asleep. The blue light emitted by smartphones impedes the release of melatonin, which is responsible for the signal for bedtime. Specialists prescribe that both kids and adults turn off screens 2 hours before bedtime.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes associated with diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure disrupts the number of sleep children can have. For instance, hormone changes, which lead to over secretion of the hormone ‘thyroxine’ causes an inability to sleep because of excessive stimulation of neurons in the central nervous system.

Medical Problems That Disrupt Sleep

Some children with medical problems that disrupt sleep contributing to overall sleep deprivation.

Common causes of sleep deprivations that leads to sleep interruption include obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome. Children with obstructive apnea may experience snoring, pauses in breathing, bed-wetting, awakenings at night, day time sleepiness.

Some children experience restless leg syndrome, which often leads to insomnia. Children who complain of restless leg syndrome complain of uncomfortable or painful sensations and urge to move their legs or other limbs.

This sensation is usually worse in the evenings; movements improve the feeling and sleep worsens the impression. For children with medical problems causing sleep deprivation, their parents need to discuss these signs and symptoms with their primary care provider or with a sleep physician.

Signs of Sleep Deprivation in Children

Sleep deprivation in children is not easy to identify. Sometimes children fall asleep on their way home from school, and this goes unnoticed by their parents — toddlers and pre-schoolers instead of being sleepy when sleep-deprived becomes hyperactive.

All these symptoms go unnoticed, mostly because of the busy modern lives of parents. The recognizable symptoms range from physical and cognitive symptoms to emotional symptoms.

Physical Symptoms

Children who are Sleep-deprived often find it difficult to wake up in the morning, and they fall asleep after being woken up repeatedly. When finally awake, they are seen frequently yawning all day, complaining of feeling tired and wanting to nap all day.

They often fall asleep or seeming drowsy at home or at school. Also, they tend to crave stimulants, such as sugar and caffeine, regularly. Lack of sleep reduces the body’s immune system, which leads to them being sick often.

Cognitive Symptoms

Sleep-deprived kids often lack motivation or interest in every task. They also complain of blurred vision and the tendency to forget easily. They also have difficulty learning new information.

Emotional Symptoms

They usually experience increase moodiness and are easily irritated. Some kids may become hyperactive and increasingly impulsive with increased stress throughout the day.

With an increased lack of sleep, your child can owe their mind and body sleep (sleep debt). When this accumulates, this could result in a child feeling mentally exhausted.

This mental exhaustion can worsen any pre-existing behavioural symptom, anxiety, and a mood disorder such as depression and bipolar disorder.

Treatment of Children Sleep Problem

Medication is only needed when your child cannot fall asleep due to either physical or psychological difficulty. Sometimes a therapist or a sleep specialist might be required to provide coping techniques for achieving excellent and sound sleep.

Treatments of sleep deprivation include behavioural and cognitive measures. Sometimes medications can be used to facilitate sleep.

Relaxation Techniques

Continuous muscle relaxation, which involves contracting and relaxing several muscles of the body, can help children in early teens in calming the body.

Simulation Control

Controlling pre-bedtime activities and surrounding is a very effective method in controlling sleep pattern. Reading bedtime stories and keeping your child away from screens at least two hours before sleeping facilitates sleeping.

Cognitive-behavioral Therapy

This kind of treatment is designed to work closely with parents whose child experiences sleep deprivation as a result of a psychological problem.

Guardians are encouraged to watch their children closely for any behavioural change. Any behavioural change which leads to sleep deprivation, they are encouraged to seek the advice of a sleep specialist or therapist as to how to go about it.


This kind of treatment is designed to work closely with parents whose child experiences sleep deprivation as a result of a psychological problem. Guardians are encouraged to watch their children closely for any behavioural change.

Any behavioural change which leads to sleep deprivation, they are encouraged to seek the advice of a sleep specialist or therapist as to how to go about it.

Other Useful Methods to Develop Good Sleeping Habit Include

  • Enforcing an early bedtime.
  • Follow a consistent routine for bed and wake-up times.
  • Avoiding late-night dinner


Sleep is a vital aspect of everybody’s daily routine, and it is key to living healthy. The overall mental state of your child depends on the quality of sleep he/she gets.

Parents may find it hard to identify day time meltdown as a sleep-related problem. It is, therefore, important for parents to pay close attention to the signs of sleep deprivation in their children.

Creating the time to make sure your child gets the right amount and quality of sleep is an effective way of preventing problems associated with lack of sleep.

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