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7 signs your kids aren’t getting enough sleep

For school-aged children, sleep is boring. Whether it’s closing a good book, their best LEGO build ever, or they’re on the cusp of the next level in their video game, sleep is just the “thing” that brings the fun stuff to a screaming halt. And while sleep may be at the bottom of your child’s to-do list, it remains a crucial part of their health and well-being. 

As your child snoozes, their bodies and brains are hard at work, and when they don’t get enough sleep, it can affect their entire day. So along with the myriad other job descriptions parents have, you can add “sleep police” to the list. Well into your child’s teenage years, you’ll have to ensure that he/she is getting enough sleep and learn how to recognize when they don’t. If you’re not sure what to look for, ahead, we’ll take a look at 7 signs your kids aren’t getting enough sleep. 

Sleeping is much more than sweet dreams

While children sleep, their bodies are a flurry of activity, doing everything from releasing growth hormones to consolidating memories.

Poor sleep, however, can have some pretty far-reaching effects, and none of it is good. A lack of sleep can affect everything from your child’s moods to their ability to learn. Over time, sleep debt can lead to long-term health issues like obesity and diabetes. With so much at stake, it’s only natural to want to meter your childs’ zzz’s.

How much sleep does your child need?

The amount of sleep your child needs will vary throughout their development. The National Sleep Foundation shares the following guidelines for newborns to teenagers: 

Age Daily Sleep Requirement 

Just as the amount of sleep your child needs will vary with age, so too does the outward appearance of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation looks like fussy behavior and irritability with infants and toddlers, whereas sleep deprivation in school-aged children may become apparent through behavioral and cognitive changes. Teens also exhibit sleep deprivation symptoms differently, but we’ll limit our discussion to toddlers and school-aged children for the purposes of this article. 

Signs your kids aren’t getting enough sleep 

While insufficient sleep will often register in your child’s personality, it’s worth noting that sleep deprivation closely mimics other behavioral issues making it incredibly difficult for parents to discern one problem from the next. If you’re not sure what to look for, here are 7 telltale signs that your kids aren’t getting enough sleep. 

You have to wake them repeatedly before they get out of bed

If your child doesn’t get up with his/her alarm, or after repeated attempts on your part to get them out of bed, they may not be getting enough shut-eye at night. 

Mood Swings/Irritability 

Multiple studies have shown that sleep and mood disturbances are inextricably linked, and the adverse effects are no different for children. Sleep-deprived children often have a tremendous degree of difficulty with emotion regulation, and sleep deprivation will frequently bubble to the surface in the form of mood swings and irritability. 

Giving to afternoon naps

If your child gives in to the afternoon slump and actually tries to take a nap or they sleep a bit more on the weekends, their bodies are likely trying to make up for a sleep deficit.

Hyperactivity 

While sleep-deprived adults are usually lethargic, sleep-deprived kids are typically hyperactive and unfocused. It may be worth noting here that hyperactivity as a result of sleep deprivation can be tricky. Very often, when parents see what appears to be an “energetic kid,” it’s easy to think of it as a “second wind” and assume they’re just fine. However, when your child is hyperactive because they aren’t getting enough sleep, allowing them to stay up because they don’t “look tired” only compounds the problem. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but if your child is behaving like a little fireball of energy, a meltdown may not be too far behind

They’re tired during the day 

For school-aged children, a good night’s sleep should be enough to sustain them throughout the day. If your kids consistently complain about being tired throughout the day, that could be a clear  sign that they aren’t getting enough sleep. 

Poor Grades 

Without enough shut-eye, your child will likely have a good deal of difficulty concentrating in school; he/she might even have a hard time remembering what they learned in class. In light of the negative effects that sleep deprivation can have on verbal acuity and problem-solving, poor grades are a sure sign that your kids aren’t getting enough sleep.  

Frequent Colds 

Frequent colds and infections could be a good indicator that your child isn’t getting enough sleep. In fact, multiple studies have shown that a lack of sleep can compromise immunity and lower our resistance to illness. 

When your kids aren’t getting enough sleep it can affect them in more ways than one. It’s important to recognize the signs early and help your child practice good sleep hygiene to quickly get things back on track. Parents can also try a soothing music selection or audio story from Moshi’s library to help their kids relax and unwind before bed.


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Sharon Brandwein is a writer specializing in all things parenting. Her work has also appeared on ABCNews, Motherly, and, Scary Mommy, and Parents. When she’s not busy curating a wardrobe for her puppy, you can find her writing about motherhood, among other things, on SharonBrandwein.com, and of course right here on Moshi.
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