3 big costs of ignoring poor sleep in children

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As a society, we’re slowing clueing into the idea that good sleep is essential for adults for our physical health, productivity, emotional stability and overall happiness. Yet when it comes to our children, sleep myths abound. Many parents, social media sites and even some health professionals are quick to normalise poor childhood sleep.

We often believe our child’s poor sleep is just part of the many challenges thrown at us in the exhausting trenches of parenting rather than a serious health issue. It’s understandable in a way. Parenting is hard enough, and we want to reassure each other that we’re doing the right thing.

‘Frequent waking – they’ll grow out of it.’
‘He wakes up with his head at the wrong end of the bed? How precious.’
‘You can hear her breathe? At least you know she’s alive!’
‘Being sleepless is just part of being a parent!’

Such ideas encourage parents not to worry about ongoing poor sleep patterns. It’s time we stop dismissing concerns about poor sleep in children – our own or other people’s.

The truth is that poor sleep is also a significant health issue for children. Up to 40% of all children, and 35% of children under two years of age, have frequent problems sleeping.

This is a high-priority public health issue, with ramifications for mental and physical performance and health. The Australian Government takes sleep seriously releasing a document ‘Bedtime Reading’ on April 5th, 2019 with calls to action on raising sleep health awareness, for everyone! And the earlier we get on top of sleep issues in children, the better.

In this post, I identify the three big costs of ignoring poor sleep in children.

Children who don’t get the right amount or right quality of sleep have problems with their moods as well as a lower ability focus, solve problems and self-regulate. A press release by the Johns Hopkins Medicine media department reported that childhood sleep apnoea was linked to brain damage.

Even small increments of sleep loss (as little as 30 minutes per night) can result in reduced performance on intelligence tests and affect learning in a significant way. Children who don’t get their sleep quota find it very hard to focus. Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is one sleep disorder that is associated with a of range neurocognitive deficits. This refers to the brain’s ability to think and learn.Children with this level of sleep disruption are unable to focus, reason and problem solve as expected for their age.

When a child’s sleep problem is connected to disordered breathing, blood-oxygen levels can drop. Low oxygenation worsens virtually all medical, emotional and developmental problems. OSA can reduce a child’s IQ by as many as 10 points compared to their IQ with proper sleep. Behavioural problems resulting from poor sleep and sleep disorders can look a lot like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). If they have ADHD, then good sleep is harder to get, and their poor sleep exacerbates their condition. Children who aren’t sleeping well often to succumb to some or all of the following problems:

  • Trouble with literacy
  • Difficulty sitting still
  • Poor concentration, focus and attention
  • Aggression, impulsivity and hyperactivity
  • Interrupting and talking out of turn

Children who don’t get the right amount or right quality of sleep have problems with their moods as well as a lower ability focus, solve problems and self-regulate. A press release by the Johns Hopkins Medicine media department reported that childhood sleep apnoea was linked to brain damage.

Even small increments of sleep loss (as little as 30 minutes per night) can result in reduced performance on intelligence tests and affect learning in a significant way. Children who don’t get their sleep quota find it very hard to focus. Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is one sleep disorder that is associated with a of range neurocognitive deficits. This refers to the brain’s ability to think and learn.Children with this level of sleep disruption are unable to focus, reason and problem solve as expected for their age.

When a child’s sleep problem is connected to disordered breathing, blood-oxygen levels can drop. Low oxygenation worsens virtually all medical, emotional and developmental problems. OSA can reduce a child’s IQ by as many as 10 points compared to their IQ with proper sleep. Behavioural problems resulting from poor sleep and sleep disorders can look a lot like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). If they have ADHD, then good sleep is harder to get, and their poor sleep exacerbates their condition. Children who aren’t sleeping well often to succumb to some or all of the following problems:

  • Trouble with literacy
  • Difficulty sitting still
  • Poor concentration, focus and attention
  • Aggression, impulsivity and hyperactivity
  • Interrupting and talking out of turn

Children who don’t get the right amount or right quality of sleep have problems with their moods as well as a lower ability focus, solve problems and self-regulate. A press release by the Johns Hopkins Medicine media department reported that childhood sleep apnoea was linked to brain damage.

Even small increments of sleep loss (as little as 30 minutes per night) can result in reduced performance on intelligence tests and affect learning in a significant way. Children who don’t get their sleep quota find it very hard to focus. Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is one sleep disorder that is associated with a of range neurocognitive deficits. This refers to the brain’s ability to think and learn.Children with this level of sleep disruption are unable to focus, reason and problem solve as expected for their age.

When a child’s sleep problem is connected to disordered breathing, blood-oxygen levels can drop. Low oxygenation worsens virtually all medical, emotional and developmental problems. OSA can reduce a child’s IQ by as many as 10 points compared to their IQ with proper sleep. Behavioural problems resulting from poor sleep and sleep disorders can look a lot like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). If they have ADHD, then good sleep is harder to get, and their poor sleep exacerbates their condition. Children who aren’t sleeping well often to succumb to some or all of the following problems:

  • Trouble with literacy
  • Difficulty sitting still
  • Poor concentration, focus and attention
  • Aggression, impulsivity and hyperactivity
  • Interrupting and talking out of turn
Counting the cost for sleep-deprived children

Such ideas encourage parents not to worry about ongoing poor sleep patterns. It’s time we stop dismissing concerns about poor sleep in children – our own or other people’s. The truth is that poor sleep is also a significant health issue for children. Up to 40% of all children, and 35% of children under two years of age, have frequent problems sleeping.

This is a high-priority public health issue, with ramifications for mental and physical performance and health. The Australian Government takes sleep seriously releasing a document ‘Bedtime Reading’ on April 5th, 2019 with calls to action on raising sleep health awareness, for everyone! And the earlier we get on top of sleep issues in children, the better.

In this post, I identify the three big costs of ignoring poor sleep in children.

What can you do?

If you’re ready to help your kids get a good night’s sleep, I’ve written a book that helps parents do just that. If this blog resonates with you check out: Sleep-Wrecked Kids; Raising happy healthy children one sleep at a time.

In Sleep-Wrecked Kids, you are supported to become the lifeguard of your child’s sleep. Packed full of information and practical help including which medical experts may need to help you get on the way to good sleep for all the family.

Sharon Moore

Author, speaker, sleep health advocate and speech pathologist

I'm Sharon Moore, author, speaker, sleep health advocate and speech pathologist at Well Spoken Upper Airway & Communication Solutions. I've seen more than 40,000 families over 4 decades of clinical work and I’ve seen first-hand how upper airway issues impact both health and happiness. The ripple effects span across family, school, community and society, and left untreated can last a life-time. I believe that great treatment transforms lives, the earlier the better and that everyone has a right to be happy, healthy and heard. I've worked in medical settings in Australia and London and currently run Well Spoken clinic in Canberra treating patients of all ages referred by medical and dental specialists for disorders of function of the upper airway that impact breathing, eating and communication.

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