How to tell if your child is getting enough sleep?

How to tell if your child is getting enough sleep?

Most adults know when they’re not getting enough sleep. We know the dread that the morning alarm brings when we have not gotten enough sleep the night before, and know that longing for another cup of coffee to get through the afternoon. 

But what can we do for children who aren’t getting enough sleep, and moreover, how can we tell when children are not getting enough sleep at night? It’s hard to tell when a child is simply ready for a nap as opposed to beginning to exhibit signs of sleep deprivation.

Busy schedules, unenforced bedtimes and medically recognized sleep disorders could all be to blame for a child not getting enough sleep. Find out more causes, as well as some of the dangers of too little sleep in this How Much Sleep Should Your Child Be Getting? infographic.

As children get older, their total hours of sleep per day they need decrease proportionally to their age as you might expect. A toddler may need around 12 hours per day while a young teenager may only require 10 or 11 but the need for overnight sleeping becomes more important. Fewer naps during the day means that the bulk of the sleeping should be done at night, but when you’re not present at their bedside to monitor them, how can you know if they’re getting enough sleep?

One way is to observe your child during the day. Children who are not getting enough sleep will exhibit common warning signs. Rhonda Patt, MD is a Charlotte pediatrician who says, "Some signs include falling asleep during the day, difficulty waking in the morning, irritability, moodiness and emotional changes." 

If your child is falling asleep during the day, but not during their normally established nap times, this is a sign of sleep deprivation. If they fall asleep every time you ride in the car, this is also a common sign. You should also be on the lookout for signs in dealing with bedtimes. If your child falls asleep much earlier than their normal bedtime, and if you have to wake them up each morning, this is likely a sign as well. 

Dr. Sara Woods is an Austin pediatrician who warns, "If children are not sleeping well, they may be more irritable and not do well at school." 

You may want to consider keeping a sleep diary of sorts to track how much sleep your child is getting, or how many times they are getting up in the middle of the night. This information may seem trivial, but it could be useful in determining the source of the sleep interruptions and help get your child back on course to get enough sleep each night.

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