Lack of sleep has led to car crashes, plane crashes and nuclear meltdown. In children, the effects of sleep deprivation may not be so catastrophic, but they are certainly significant.
Sleep is needed because it helps our brains function properly. Sleep improves our ability to learn, make decisions, pay attention and be creative.
Growth hormone is secreted when children and teenagers sleep. It makes them grow and increases muscle mass.
Newborns sleep most of the time – they average 18 hours a day. Night and day mean little to them.
Older infants sleep about 14 hours a day, with most of that (hopefully) happening at night. They take up to three daytime naps.
By 1 to 3 years of age, toddlers sleep about 12-14 hours a day. They are still usually napping.
Preschoolers sleep approximately 11-12 hours at night. Some still nap. But most need a quiet time during the day.
School-aged children usually sleep 11-12 hours at night. This is the age when activities and homework often start to cut into this important rest time.
Children who get too little sleep can be irritable, have mood swings, feel sad, act depressed, be hyperactive, have a lack of motivation and have trouble paying attention in class.
Lack of sleep can affect decision-making and creativity, as well.
Teenagers need about nine hours of sleep at night. Between homework, friends, activities and electronics, teens often sleep less than nine hours.
The fact that teens have a natural tendency to stay up late and sleep late only makes this worse.
Sleep deprivation is cumulative, so by the end of the week a teenager may be about a night behind on sleep.
They may sleep a lot more on the weekend to try to catch up.
Sleep deprivation can also cause slower reaction times and short-term memory loss.
Since some teens are driving, this makes lack of sleep much more dangerous.
Over time, chronic lack of sleep can lead to a range of problems such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes and kidney disease.
To help assure that children and teens get enough sleep, regular sleep schedules are very important.
Younger children can be given “early warnings” that bedtime is a certain amount of time away. There should be a winding-down period before bedtime when activity decreases and electronics are restricted. Y