Fixing poor sleeping habits in children

Fixing poor sleeping habits in children

Children can act out for a number of reasons. When bad behavior becomes a habit, teachers and parents look to medicine to provide an answer. While testing for disorders like ADHD, depression and anxiety may effectively rule out some problems, the solution may be an easier fix. Many of the symptoms of psychological disorders are caused by lack of sleep. Pediatricians suggest that ensuring your child is getting adequate sleep may dramatically improve his or her behavior. 

There are many causes of lack of sleep ranging from a busy schedule to over-stimulation and diet to diagnosable sleep disorders. Find out more with the How Much Sleep Should Your Child Be Getting? infographic.

Dr. Andy Bernstein, a Chicago pediatrician, explains the effects of sleep deprivation based on the child’s age. He said:

"An infant or toddler who doesn't sleep well is going to be tired, cranky, and be much more stressful for his or her parents, who are probably lacking sleep as well. A school-aged child or teenager who isn't getting enough sleep will undoubtedly suffer in school, because kids who are tired are more likely to suffer from inattention and poor concentration."

To help get kids better sleep, he says, “It's important to get physical activity every day and to maintain a consistent sleep schedule as much as possible.”

Sleep restores children’s brains in different ways based on whether he or she is in the REM (rapid eye movement) or NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep stage. REM sleep has been linked to memory formation and learning. If a child is not getting enough REM sleep, he or she may have difficulty performing academically. Additionally, waking a child up during the REM sleep period may make him or her irritable and anxious. 

NREM sleep is responsible for facilitating human growth and development. It is crucial for children to get NREM sleep in order to grow taller and mature. Lack of NREM sleep will lead to children feeling physically tired. 

Some poor sleeping habits may be the result of medical problems that require more serious treatment. Not far outside of Dallas at Baylor University, reseachers offer overnight testing in a sleep lab to diagnose these more serious conditions. Parents of children who have a history of brain tumors, asthma, bed-wetting, snoring or excessive movement during sleep may need to have their child tested for sleep disorders. 

Sleep lab testing can diagnose both neurological and psychological problems that lead to poor sleeping habits in children. The Multiple Sleep Latency Test or MSLT records a child’s brain wave activity, eye movements, muscle contractions and heart activity. By measuring this activity, the test can help quantify your child’s sleep.