As adults, we certainly know how different we feel the morning after a restful night of sleep: basically like superheroes. Our children need the right amount of sleep for their bodies too, but the signs that they’re not getting the quality sleep they need can be very different than adults. Even if you’re putting your child to bed at a reasonable bedtime, on a regular schedule, and they’re getting enough sleep, their sleep could be disrupted and unrestful. If your child is exhibiting any of the following behaviors, it could be a sign that they are experiencing issues with their sleep.
Acting Out at School or Home
If your child’s teacher is calling to report new behavioral issues at school, or you’ve begun noticing your child acting outside of their normal modes of operation at home, it can be tempting to quickly reach for a behavioral evaluation. However, the first place you should look is your child’s sleep. Poor sleep limits our ability to self-regulate emotions, especially in children, so acting out is a common expression of poor sleep. Sleep issues can also crop up at anytime and are impacted by factors such as by age, development and overall well-being.
Bursts of Hyperactivity
When adults are tired, the symptoms are what you’d expected: low energy, sleepiness and difficulty focusing. Children, however, can respond differently to sleep deprivation, oftentimes overcompensating for their tiredness with frenetic bursts of energy. If your child is experiencing pre-bedtime eruptions of energy, it doesn’t mean that you need to increase their activity load during the day to tire them out. They could already be exhausted by poor sleep and additional activities would only exacerbate the issue. Before attributing your child’s excess energy to a lack of daytime occupation, make sure their sleep health is in order.
Intense Mood Swings
Does it feel like dealing with your child’s emotions is like riding a rollercoaster that’s out of control? If they go from happy-go-lucky to throwing fits at the drop of a hat, it’s not because they’re going through puberty early. It could be a sign of poor sleep. Most school-aged children are able to manage their emotions and work through issues using logic. When tired, however, it becomes significantly more difficult to process difficult information, oftentimes causing the child to become overwhelmed by their feelings. If your child used to manage their frustration or anger in a healthy manner but have more recently begun to find those feelings ungovernable, sleep could be the culprit.
Difficult to Wake Up in the Morning
There is such a thing as morning and night people. Because of our unique circadian rhythms, some people experience a burst of energy early in the day, while others experience it later at night. No matter what your rhythm, however, a well-rested child (or adult, for that matter) will easily and generally positively wake up in the mornings, as long as they are on a stable schedule that spans weekdays and weekends. If you’re dragging your kid out of bed each day, or dealing with their foul mood at breakfast, don’t brush it off as part of their unique disposition - it could be due to poor sleep (meaning it could be avoidable!).
Young kids throw tantrums. But kids who are in school have typically developed stronger control of their emotions, allowing them to process challenges in more productive ways. So if you have a 10 year-old who flies into a Stage 5 meltdown when something doesn’t go their way, or can’t get out of a cranky or irritable mood for an entire day, you might want to consider that the source of their emotional disturbance could be a lack of quality sleep.
Severe Daytime Sleepiness
There’s one indicator of potential sleep issues that usually surprises parents: if your kids fall asleep during activities they don’t love. Your child isn’t nodding off in class or daydreaming because they’re bored. Well, not just because they’re bored. A well-rested child is able to stay awake during all daytime activities, including the ones that aren’t necessarily the most fun. Even more telling, if your child falls asleep while they’re watching TV or participating in other activities that they enjoy, then they are definitely at risk for a sleep disorder.
Overeating and Inability to Manage Appetite
Sleep truly impacts every aspect of our lives. There are two specific hormones that regulate appetite: one that stimulates and one that minimizes. When we are sleep deprived, the level of the hormone that stimulates the appetite spikes, leading to an increase in hunger and therefore overeating. If your child has difficulty regulating their appetite and consistently overeats, it could be a hormonal response that their body is not getting the sleep they need.
Forgetfulness and Memory Issues
That feeling...when you can’t remember why you walked into a particular room...but you know you had a purpose...While memory issues are a common occurrence as we age, it shouldn’t be common in our kids, who are little sponges, soaking up all the knowledge they can as quickly as they can. Not that children should have photographic memories - but if you notice your child struggling to remember stories, where they left things or other memory loss symptoms more common in adults, your child could be suffering from a sleep issue that, left untreated, will only cause more memory issues as they grow older.
Snoring or Gasping Breaths During Sleep
It is super cute hearing our kids snore. I mean, everything they do is adorable, so why should snoring be any different? Well, it should be a cause for concern: snoring is a sign that the airway is partially blocked during sleep. While snores can sometimes be the result of a cold or allergies, they can also be indicative of more serious issues such as sleep apnea. If your child’s snores happen regularly, or if you witness them gasping for breath while they sleep, you should have them assessed for a sleep breathing disorder, at least as a precaution.
If any of these symptoms sound like your child, the first step to figuring out what’s happening during their sleep is a sleep assessment. In the marketplace for at-home sleep assessments, there’s only one that is non-wearable, designed for kids and gives a holistic picture of your child’s sleep health: Knit Health, a sleep improvement program that provides comparable insights to those from a sleep lab. Over 21 nights, Knit gathers data about a child’s sleep patterns and possible breathing disturbances. After the assessment period, board-certified experts in sleep medicine review the insights produced by the sophisticated neural network and camera vision technology to draw conclusions about the child’s sleep health and make actionable recommendations to improve.
While currently available by doctor referral only, Knit Health knows that most parents really need insights into their children’s sleep. So they’re opening up a special offer to WAHM readers for the 21-night assessment and in-depth report for just $99. Normally priced at $249, WAHM readers can visit Knithealth.com, click the button “I was referred by a doctor” and enter “WAHM” as the doctor’s name to get the discounted price of just $99. This offer expires at the end of the year and there are a limited number of cameras, so moms should take advantage of this special opportunity quickly.
If you’re concerned about your child’s sleep, talk to your pediatrician or have your child’s sleep assessed as soon as possible. Each night of sleep is crucial in a child’s development, so there’s no time to delay. “One study found that elementary-school students who had missed just one hour of sleep three nights in a row performed two years below their actual grade level on academic tests.” - Parents Magazine