It’s important for kids to sleep as much as they need. This varies depending on their age, but the importance of getting enough sleep never does. Sleep can have strong effects on their mental health. It’s important for us to know what those effects are, not just so that we can explain to our kids why sleep is important, but also to be able to pinpoint when our kids are having a difficult time sleeping. That way, we’ll know if they need help, and we’ll be able to provide that for them.
Here are the ways a lack of sleep can affect children:
It Affects Their Mood
Lack of sleep can affect kids’ moods just like it affects adults. Kids who don’t get enough sleep lose control over their emotions more than kids who sleep enough. They are cranky, get easily frustrated, they lash out more.
Sleep deprivation worsens anxiety too. It makes us, as adults, feel more anxious, and it’s the same effect on our kids. They’re more prone to worrying, to feeling anxious on days they haven’t slept enough.
It Changes Their Behavior
Children who don’t get enough sleep will start behaving differently. They’ll come off as being more hyperactive or acting more impulsively. As for sleep-deprived kids with disorders like ADHD, they’ll have a harder time keeping focused on something. Their attention problems will only get worse on days of little sleep.
In children aged 8-11, we can also see more reluctance to go to school. This can be because of the aforementioned increased anxiety. It might be because they feel anxious about going to school, about what might happen there. It can also be separation anxiety: they don’t want to be away from their parents on days when they feel this anxious.
It Opens Up Risk for Mental Health Problems
If your child already has mental health problems, then lack of sleep will only exacerbate them. Heightened anxiety, for example, will worsen any anxiety disorder your child may have. But it can affect other areas of mental health too. Sleep deprivation has been found to increase suicidal thoughts, especially in teenagers. Not all suicidal thoughts lead to suicide, but this is still a real concern.
Sleep deprivation has also been found to lead to mental health problems in the long run. For children who don’t get enough sleep, it can lead to them developing anxiety and depression as early as their teenage years. As for teenagers who don’t get enough sleep, it can lead them to develop depression and anxiety as adults.
Helping Kids Sleep
The best way to help our kids is to start improving their sleep habits. Make sure they wake up and go to sleep at the same time every day, even on weekends. Try to get them to exercise a little during the day. It can be something small like going for a walk.
Avoiding bright lights as the evening arrives and reducing the use of screens at night also helps them fall asleep It also improves their quality of sleep, which is just as important as the number of hours they’ve slept. Likewise, keeping the bedrooms as dark as possible at night can only help them.
But if you’ve done all this and more and you still see no change in your child, that might mean there’s an underlying reason for their sleep deprivation. In that case, you might want to consult with a mental health professional in order to see what’s troubling them and what might be the best way to help them. If your child is struggling with sleep, feel free to reach out and make an appointment today.