More Than Half of US Children Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep: Alarming Mental and Physical Health Problems

Is your school-going child irritable? Not doing well academically? Inattentive and aggressive? If you are nodding to all these questions, then we know what the culprit is behind your child’s emotional distress.

According to a study published by researchers bythe American Academy of Pediatrics, only 48% of children in the US get a proper 9 hours of sleep. The study further concluded that children with less than 9 hours of sleep are at an increased risk of depression, obesity, and poor academic performance.

Researchers at 2019 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference & Exhibition published study based on examining responses of 50,000 parents. The respondents were asked how much sleep their children are getting; how engaged they are in school, homework and other practices; and how well they handled emotions in challenging situations.

After collecting data based on answers from the parents, research has concluded that sleep-deprived kids are tired, less socially capable, are less mentally healthy and have more behavioral problems.

Living in a technology-obsessed society, sleep deprivation is common among adults. The unbounded use of residential internet, social media addiction, and other technological aspects lead to sleep deprivation among adults. This sleep deprivation causes a setback in their work and social life. However, when it comes to children sleep deprivation can disrupt their physical and emotional health.

How Much Sleep Does Your Child Needs 

Firstly, it is important to understand that sleep requirements change as the child gets older. Therefore, unlike an infant who needs 14 to 17 hours of sleep or an adult that needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep, a school-going child has different sleep requirements.

According to The National Sleep Foundation, school-age children need 9 to 11 hours of sleep each night.

However, a child suffering from sleep deprivation, i.e. not having the required sleep time, is often subjected to severe mental and physical health problems. One such alarming health hazard linked to lack of sleep in children is child obesity.

Since the 1970s, the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled in the United States. According to sleep experts, sleep deprivation and weight gain are closely related.

While fast food and insufficient exercise contribute largely to child obesity, sleep deprivation plays its role as well.

Sleep deprivation is linked to child obesity because the lack of sleep has a direct effect on hormones that control appetite. Appetite control hormones – ghrelin and leptin, are responsible for increased and decreased appetite in children, respectively. Therefore, when a child is sleep-deprived, ghrelin level rises and lepton level decreases, which ultimately increases hunger in children.

How to Establish a Proper Sleep Routine for Children? Tips for Parents

Easier said than done; revamping a child’s sleep routine is a tough business. However, to minimize the risk of depression, anxiety and childhood obesity in your child establishing a proper sleep routine is essential.

Creating a Sleep Environment

Creating an optimal sleep environment for children involves ensuring the bedroom is dark or dimly lit; room temperature is not too cold and not too hot and is quiet.

If any of this seems impossible to implement then white noise machines can also help in creating a perfect sleep environment for children.

Prohibit Digital Usage before Bed

One of the biggest hurdles of good sleep is screen time. According to The National Sleep Foundation, kids and even adults that use electronic devices before going to bed cannot get proper sleep. Especially, the small screens held closer to the face, interfere with the release of melatonin, the hormone that helps in sleeping.

Although it is difficult to prohibit digital usage completely, parents can impose digital curfew 1 or 2 hours before bed.  

Practice What You Preach

Canapari, director of the Yale Pediatric Sleep Center and author of the book “It’s Never Too Late for Sleep Train” says that parents who keep their devices out of their rooms and talk about the importance of good sleep to their children can establish a proper sleep routine at home.

This shows that it is important for parents to be an advocate for better sleep to make sure your child prices the same.

Key Takeaways

Not getting enough sleep affects a child’s everyday routine in many ways. Apart from physical and mental health risks, a child becomes irritable and inattentive due to lack of sleep.

Sleep deprivation can cause major setbacks in a person’s life if it not treated at an early age. From making a school-age child socially incapable to increasing the risk of self-harm in teens, sleep deprivation has alarming impacts on our lives.