Signs of Sleep Trouble in Children

Posted by Tyler Britton on Nov 23, 2018 8:00:00 PM

Signs of sleep trouble in children

How Much Sleep Should Children Have

Children need a lot more sleep than adults, period. By children, we are talking about adolescents from babies (1 year old) to teenagers (17 years old) The recommended amount of sleep for children varies with age. Here are some ranges that you will commonly see for nighttime sleep recommendations [NHS]:

  • 1-5 years: 11-12 hours of sleep per night
  • 6-9 years: 10-11 hours of sleep per night
  • 10-17 years: 9-10 hours of sleep per night

Of course, we are all individuals and your child may need a bit more or less sleep than indicated above. Also, naptime is important for babies and toddlers in addition to the above recommendations for nighttime sleep.

Symptoms of Sleep Trouble in Children

Symptoms of sleep trouble in children are on par with symptoms of sleep trouble in adults, except that these signs may be more pronounced in children. Some symptoms are [WebMD]:

  • Waking up often
  • Restless sleep – you might hearing your child rolling around often during the night
  • Chronic night-terrors
  • Trouble staying awake during the daytime
  • Chronic bed-wetting (for older children)

Often, signs of sleep trouble in children are accompanied by behavior signs of sleep trouble as well.

Behavioral Signs of Lack of Sleep in Children

Behavioral signs of lack of sleep can be prominent. The important thing to note about these symptoms is that they may be normal behavior for a child and they may not – more important is whether or not these symptoms pop up and don’t characterize “normal behavior.”

  • Very emotional, such as with explosive temper tantrums
  • ADHD symptoms, such as hyperactivity or difficulty concentrating (see ADHD and Sleep) – 50% of children with ADHD had signs of sleep disorder breathing vs. 22% with non-ADHD children [See study: Sleep disorders and daytime sleepiness in children with ADHD]
  • Memory problems
  • Slow reaction times
  • Impulsiveness
  • Difficulty falling asleep from being over-tired
  • Defiant behavior
  • Uncharacteristic clumsiness
  • Lots of difficulty waking up in the morning
  • Falling asleep right away – ideally, there is a transition between being awake and sleep

Excessive behavioral signs of lack of sleep in children can also be an indicator that there is an underlying sleep disorder causing the sleep trouble.

Signs of Sleep Disorders in Children

Abnormal and out of control tantrums may be caused by sleep

Like adults, children can have the same types of sleep disorders, such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea. Signs of sleep disorder in children may include any of the above listen symptoms, as well as [eMedicine]:

  • Loud snoring
  • Excessive snoring
  • Unexplained decrease in daytime performance
  • Breathing pauses during the night
  • “Unusual” events during sleep

Tips for Improving Your Child’s Sleep

Here are some tried-and-true tips for improving sleep for children:

  • Create a bedtime routine that you repeat every night, such as reading, singing a particular song, etc.
  • Give child a bath about 30 minutes before bed – getting out of the bath simulates a drop in core temperature which cues our body that it is time for rest [org]
  • Create natural sleep environment: quiet, dark, peaceful, no TV or electronics on
  • “Wind-down” after dinner
  • Establish consistent bed-time and do not vary from it

If your child is still suffering from sleep trouble or showing warning signs of sleep disorders, you may consult with your healthcare provider or a sleep care specialist for a sleep evaluations.

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