Sunday Snippet: Sleep Deprivation in Children
Childhood sleep deprivation is a common problem. In fact, between 25% and 30% of normally developing children and adolescents are not getting enough sleep consistently. Lack of sleep is known to cause poor attention, worse grades, school absences, poor social interactions, irritability and crankiness, depression, increased car crashes, and increased risk-taking behaviors. Here are a few quick facts and fixes to sleep deprivation:
Specifically, research studies have shown that shorter sleep durations are associated with inattention, poor decision-making, and decreased memory, all of which can affect academic achievement. Small decreases in the total amount of sleep, even by just an hour less per night, can cause negative cognitive performance. One study found that children who were making Cs, Ds, and Fs in classes were sleeping 25 to 30 minutes less on average than their peers who were making better grades.
The feeling of sleepiness is a result of sleep deprivation and is highly correlated to daytime function and performance. As sleep duration is significantly influenced by habitual bedtime, wake-up time, and the usual daily schedule of activities, small changes can result in improved daytime function. This may be an important factor in consideration of how much sleep is right for each child. Every child responds to sleep deprivation differently, with some appearing to be less affected than others. While several definitions for optimal sleep have been proposed, it is important to find the right amount of sleep each individual child needs to be fully awake and to participate in normal daily activities at his or her highest ability.
Parents can also help their children realize the benefits of getting enough sleep. A study showed that an increase in sleep time by approximately 30 minutes every night for 5 nights had an immediate impact on emotional ability and restless-impulsive behaviors of children in school. Another study reported a 16.5% reduction in car crashes by teenagers when school start times were moved back by 1 hour and most of the students were able to increase their nightly sleep time.8 Additionally, it is important to think of consistency with regard to getting enough sleep. Studies show that sleep deprivation in children for 1 night showed less negative impact on attention than nightly sleep deprivation for a full week.9 So while some days may be longer than others because of extracurricular activities, it is important for parents and children to not let it become a habit to sleep less every night.
Parents are often able to figure out how much sleep helps their child thrive; this can be determined when the child has an opportunity to catch up on sleep over approximately a week (such as a holiday break). Usually by the end of this week, it becomes apparent how much sleep each child “needs” to function at his or her best. Subtraction of this number of hours from the school day wake-up time helps to determine the ideal bedtime. Maintenance of a regular sleep-wake schedule daily, including on weekends, will help to ensure that children avoid sleep deprivation and its negative effects.
Furthermore, for areas with early school start times, parents may consider working with local school boards to move the start time later. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends middle schools and high schools start at 8:30 AM or later so that more children can get the healthy sleep they need to function at their best.10 Children experience a natural delay of approximately 1 hour in their internal sleep clocks near puberty, thus early start times require a child to be awake and alert when their biologic clock tells them to sleep.
In summary, sleep deprivation is common and has many effects on children, including daytime dysfunction with negative effects in school, sports, and overall health. A well-rested child is more likely to be healthy and energetic. However, sleep deprivation is reversible and can be prevented with increased education on the importance of sleep and increased prioritization of sleep in our daily lives.
Source: Sleep Review