Getting enough sleep is vital to a child’s growth and development. Childhood sleep disorders and getting too little sleep can lead to issues such as behavioral problems, health issues and learning difficulties. That’s why it’s so important to make sure children get enough sleep each night.

That may be easier said than done for many families. Bedtime can be a hectic time, but it’s worth persevering to get kids to sleep on time. Besides causing crankiness, too little sleep can lead to behavioral issues such as hyperactivity, difficulty getting along with others and drastic mood swings. Psychiatric issues including ADHD, anxiety and depression have also been strongly linked to childhood sleep disorders.

Studies have proven that getting enough sleep improves learning. Sleep helps the brain work properly and prepare for the next day. While sleeping, new pathways are formed for learning and retaining information. Problem-solving skills, ability to make decisions and creativity are all enhanced. Lack of sleep can lead to academic problems such as difficulty concentrating, low test scores and underachievement.

Is your child getting enough sleep?

The National Sleep Foundation suggests the following guidelines for sleep for pre-school and school-aged children:

Ages 3-5:              10-13 hours per night
Ages 6-13:             9-11 hours per night
Ages 14-17:           8-10 hours per night

Here are some signs that your child is not getting enough sleep:

  • Has difficulty getting out of bed in the morning
  • Wakes up groggy
  • Complains about being tired throughout the day
  • Needs to catch up on sleep on weekends
  • Falls asleep at inappropriate times
  • Acts hyper
  • Lacks interest or motivation
  • Struggles academically
  • Has trouble falling asleep
  • Snores loudly
  • Sleeps restlessly
  • Has mood swings
  • Shows irritability

Do any of these signs sound familiar? If so, your child is probably not getting enough sleep. He or she may even be suffering from childhood sleep disorders. Getting more sleep will likely improve your child’s mood, behavior and academic performance.

Help your child try to get a better night’s rest in the following ways:

  • Instill a bedtime ritual that sets the tone for sleep.
  • Aim for a consistent bedtime that allows for the suggested hours of sleep.
  • Wake your child up at a consistent time each morning.
  • Have your child turn off all electronics at least one hour before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine, heavy meals and sugary treats too late in the afternoon.
  • Encourage him or her to get enough physical activity and exercise.

When should you see a doctor for a childhood sleep disorder?

It’s time to talk to your child’s pediatrician if the above tips aren’t helping. You may want to visit a sleep specialist to rule out childhood sleep disorders—especially if your child is showing bedtime fears or anxiety, snoring heavily, waking frequently or experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness. Childhood sleep disorders include sleep apnea, parasomnia (night terrors), sleep deprivation and night walking.

Contact the Jacksonville Sleep Center if you think a sleep disorder is disrupting your child’s well-being. Dr. Nassar and his team can determine the cause of your child’s sleep problems. They’ll help you find an effective treatment to get your child back to sleeping well and living a healthy life. Call (904) 854-6899 to schedule an appointment.