Does your child find it hard to get out of bed in the morning? is he sleepy during the day, falling behind in school or just plain cranky?
Although we all need enough sleep to function well during the day, children especially need their sleep, because it’s during sleep that body produces growth hormones. These hormones are essential for healthy development.
Almost one in three children are sleep deprived. So why is this happening and what can we do about it?
There are many reasons children may not be getting the sleep they need. Most of us know the more common things that keep our kids awake at night, for instance stress, not having a sleep routine and lack of exercise. There are however, a few lesser known causes of sleep problems in children and we’ll have a look at some of them here.
Television and computers in the bedroom
Computer games and television in the bedroom are among the biggest child sleep stealers! Playing computer games is both entertaining and stimulating. If your child is using computers or the television to unwind, they’re probably having the opposite effect.
Television can stimulate our children’s minds to the point where relaxation is impossible especially if the program is scary. Do you know what your child is watching in his bedroom? Noise and light, even dim light, can make it difficult to fall asleep. Light prevents the brain from producing the hormone melatonin which induces sleep. The bright, flickering television or computer screen prevents this essential sleep hormone from forming.
You wouldn’t give your child a cup of coffee or tea in the evening, but how about a chocolate bar or a glass of cola at lunchtime? Caffeine is a notorious stimulant and most of us insomniacs know not to drink coffee late at night. But did you know caffeine can take 6-8 hours more to leave the body? So that mid afternoon cuppa may be causing your night time restlessness and than can of cola after school could be keeping your child up long after he should be asleep.
Does your child have too much to do? School, homework, sports or coaching. Children have a lot of opportunities these days but less and less time to fit everything in. This can cause stress and can be a major cause of sleep problems in children as there is no time left at the end of the day to unwind.
The link between obesity and childhood sleep apnea
Overweight children can be prone to childhood sleep apnea which is a serious disease where the body doesn’t get enough oxygen. Not many people realize children can suffer with sleep apnea but it’s a real risk for overweight children. Best remedies are lots of exercise and less junk food. Oh! and please take them to the doctor if you suspect childhood sleep apnea.
There is also a link between overweight kids and other sleep problems due to metabolism and also hormone function. These theories are being tested still but may be due to sleep deprived children needing to overeat to create energy for day to day living.
Dreams are a necessary and natural way to process what happens in our lives, but does your child have nightmares or bad dreams? Kids who have nightmares regularly, sometimes resist the urge to sleep because they are afraid of scary dreams.
These are some of the reasons your child may be sleep deprived. As you’ve probably figured out they also apply to us adults!