Is your child getting enough sleep at night? The new school year will be here before you know it and that means getting the kids back on a healthy sleep schedule. While the summer offers many opportunities for late-night movie binges or all-night sleepovers, the school year is not so forgiving. It’s important to get a jumpstart on helping your kids rest easy now — not when it’s 6 a.m. on the first day back to school.
At Sierra Smiles, we understand just how important quality sleep is to a person’s complete health. In fact, we’ve created an entire area of our practice that is devoted solely to helping our patients sleep better. If you are concerned about your child getting enough rest each night, we are here to help! Read on to learn common signs of sleep deprivation, sleep benefits and options for monitoring your child’s sleep patterns right in the comfort of your home.
Signs Your Child or Teen May Be Sleep Deprived
It can be difficult to determine whether or not your child is sleep deprived. After all, some signs, like crabby behavior, can really just be a result of a bad day. In teens, it can be even more difficult, as they are also navigating hormones, packed schedules and other general teenage angst. The best way to find out is to monitor your children’s behavior over time to see if they are having a one-off moment or if there are signs of something else going on. Here are a few signs your child may be sleep-deprived:
- Behavioral issues
- Uncharacteristic aggression or temper tantrums
- Trouble waking up in the morning
- Sleeping outside of regular nap times or bedtime
- Memory issues
- Falling grades
- Trouble paying attention
- Poor coordination
If you have noticed any of these issues with your child and are unable to resolve them with good sleep hygiene, it is time to have your child take a sleep test. We’ll touch on that more later on in this article, but first, we should explore key ways that sleep is beneficial to growing young people.
Quality Sleep Helps Children Learn
There is no doubt that quality sleep translates to better learning outcomes for kids. In a 2015 Time article on a scientific study that observed connections between sleep and academic performance, researchers noted that grades were linked to what is referred to as “sleep efficiency.” Sleep efficiency is the quality and duration of a person’s nightly rest.
Clinical psychologist, Reut Gruber, detailed some of the findings in the Time article, explaining: “For math and languages, we need to use the skills that are called ‘executive functions’—things like working memory, planning, not being distracted. The hardware that supports those skills is in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, which is very sensitive to the effects of poor sleep or insufficient sleep.”
The study showed that children with sleep deficits had poorer scores than their well-rested peers, especially in math and languages. The conclusion is that better sleep is restorative in the parts of the brain that children use for problem-solving, memory function and attention.
Sleep is Critical to a Child’s Development and Complete Health
Sleep is not just critical for proper cognitive development. It also helps with complete health — overall physical wellness. The Sleep Foundation notes that, “poor sleep in childhood may carry future cardiovascular risks in the form of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.” The Sleep Foundation also notes that inadequate sleep can impact immunity, allergies, nasal breathing and much more.
Sleep allows young bodies to rest and recharge without the distraction of day-to-day functioning. However, don’t be fooled. A body at rest is still a busy body. As your child progresses through the four stages of sleep, their body switches to restoration and repair. Muscles relax and rest. Helpful hormones are produced to promote functioning. Heart rate and breathing slow. In short, every night of quality sleep is akin to taking a car to the shop for a tune-up. In this case, the body is both vehicle and mechanic and the tune-up must happen every day to be truly beneficial.
Sleep Helps with Behavior and Mood Regulation in Children
Every parent knows that an exhausted child is usually a grumpy child. Poor sleep makes it difficult for children to regulate their behavior—which is hard for kids even on a great day when they’ve had lots of rest. Additionally, sleep deprivation heightens children’s emotions. Anyone who has ever watched a toddler have a meltdown over a broken cracker or missing toy knows just how important sleep can be to behavior. In a recent article in Sleep, Berkeley professor Ronald E. Dahl notes that, “many toddlers and elementary school children respond to insufficient sleep with irritability, crankiness, low frustration tolerance and short attention span.”
Ensuring your child gets a healthy amount of sleep is important to helping them regulate their emotions. It also supports them in behaving appropriately at school and at home. The human body needs appropriate rest to function at its best. Children who are in a critical stage of growth and development need it even more.
Evaluating Your Child’s Sleep Before Going Back to School: Perform an In-Home Sleep Study
Many parents struggle with knowing how to evaluate their child’s sleep. After all, short of sitting in their room and monitoring them all night long for a period of weeks, you will likely need some assistance. At Sierra Smiles, we help parents monitor their child’s sleep health using a medical-grade sleep measurement tool known as SleepImage.
SleepImage is a non-invasive and user-friendly tool that monitors your child’s heart rate and breathing activity to help you monitor sleep quality as they sleep comfortably in their own bed at home. While they sleep, your child wears an unobtrusive ring. There are no wires and tape, no large machines, no staff coming in and out of the room. The ring sends data to an app you can install on your smartphone and organizes it to give you a clear picture of how your child sleeps through the night. Once you have gathered enough information, you can use it to create new strategies for helping your kid get better rest or seek medical intervention.
If you would like to learn more about how Sierra Smiles can help you help your kids get better rest before school begins this fall, we would love to help! Visit Sierra Sleep Airway and Wellness Center or give us a call to schedule your appointment today.
New to Sierra Smiles? Check out our New Patient Special! For just $99, you will receive full X-rays and a complete health exam, including an oral cancer screening and airway evaluation. Let us show you what Sierra Smiles can do for you and your family’s complete health!