Studies have found that it’s not just the American adults that are sleep deprived – children are too.
Good sleep is essential for one’s physical and mental well-being. But truth is, 1 in 3 children in America isn’t meeting general requirements for sleep.
The CDC has stated that insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic for children. And a lack of restorative sleep can compromise the physical and emotional health of children and interfere with normal growth and development.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children in ages 3 to 5 must get 10 to 13 hours of sleep, children ages 6 to 12 must get 12 hours and teens should be getting 8 to 10 hours of sleep.
In this article, we look into the importance of good sleep for children, the reasons for sleep deprivation in children, the impact it has on children’ health, tips to revamp children’s sleep routines and how school nurses can assess sleep problems and educate the community on the importance of healthy sleeping routines for students.
The importance of sound sleep in children
Sleep helps in the development of young minds.
It has a direct effect on children’s happiness and research shows it’s one of the best ways to improve alertness, attention, cognitive performance and mood.
The other benefits of sleep on children include better resilience, vocabulary acquisition, learning and memory.
In toddlers, sleep helps in memory consolidation, attention and motor skill development.
What causes of sleep deprivation in students?
Several factors affect children’s sleep.
Here, understanding the source of sleep deprivation is crucial.
A lack of sleep causes irritability, inattentiveness and poor academic performance.
Often, childhood sleep problems are often linked to physical or behavioral disorders.
The physical disorders relate either to sleep apnea or chronic illnesses and the behavioral disorders relate to stress, anxiety and mood disorders.
It can also be a combination of physical and behavioral disorders.
Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) is a major cause, and its signs include breathing through the mouth, snoring and sleep apnea. SBD peaks in children aged 2 to 6.
And some of the factors that contribute to SDB is poorly controlled asthma, a high body mass index and restless legs syndrome.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is characterized by episodic, partial or complete airway obstruction, usually from enlarged tonsils.
Behavioral and psychiatric causes
Emotional factors like stress, anxiety and mood disorders also deprive children of their sleep.
Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism-related disorders or substance abuse may have impaired sleep cycles.
Other factors include episodes of trauma – that include abuse, that could have children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which causes serious sleep problems like sleep enuresis, sleepwalking, nightmares and night terrors.
Nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting) can cause disturbance to children’s sleep, sleep walking, nightmares, night terrors are the other reasons for sleep deprivation.
How sleep deprivation impacts students’ health?
A child who’s not had enough sleep can easily go from grumpy to hyperactive, with behavior that mimics ADHD.
Sleepiness also affects child’s attentiveness, impacting their performance in school. Minimal sleep can have a massive impact on the child’s daily life.
A lack of sleep can result in:
- Accidents and injuries
- Performance-related problems
- Memory concentration and learning problems
- Behavior problems
- Mood problems
- Reactions being slower
The American Academy of Pediatrics has found that 1 in 4 children under the age of 5 do not get enough sleep.
Poor sleeping patterns in children that young have been linked to allergic rhinitis, immune system issues, anxiety and depression.
Inadequate sleep during childhood may also carry future risks in the form on obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
In adolescents, inadequate sleep can have long-term effects on academic performance and mental health.
The Americal Medical Health Association, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the Americal Academy of Pediatrics consider chronic sleep loss in adolescents as a public health problem.
Tips to Ensure Students Get Good Sleep
Students need to get enough sleep to be fully alert and ready for the day.
The best way to ensure they get it is to ensure they follow a consistent bedtime routine. A consistent bedtime routine helps children get enough sleep, so as school nurses, you can educate children on the importance of good sleep times and practices.
School nurses can also educate parents on the importance of following the same sleep time activities every day, so children know what to expect.
A good bedtime routine includes:
- Turning off computers, TVs, video games, mobile phones
- Switching off bright lights, creating a bedroom that’s dimly lit
- Putting on pajamas and brushing teeth – creating the environment
- Reading a light book, singing a lullaby or taking a bath
- Picking a stuffed animal or security blanket for the night for toddlers
Educate parents on identifying the signs of when the child is sleepy. The best time they should be putting the child to sleep is when they’re sleepy, and not when they are already asleep. Put sleepy children to bed should help them learn how to fall asleep on their own. If preschool children wake up in the middle of the night, walk them back to their bed.
There are also things to avoid like: negotiating bedtime, using it as a punishment, allowing kids to consume sugary or caffeinated foods late in the day.
School nurses’ role in improving sleeping habits in students
School nurses understand how good sleep practices result in academic success.
Their presence in the school, and repeated interactions with students and parents allow them to use their knowledge to identify children with sleeping disorders and intervene for improvement.
During regular health screenings, school nurses can diagnose issues of disruptive behavior, falling asleep in class, obesity, poor academic performance or other signs of sleep deprivation in children. They can then educate children on how to turn their sleeping practices around to improve their attentiveness and academic success.
For the assessments, school nurses can rely on EduHealth to note observations of sleep deprived behaviors in children in a systematic and comprehensive manner. They can then use the information, understand trends and identify causes and help suffering children tackle those situations with good sleeping practices.
School nurses like you who have profound knowledge of development, health promotion and evidence-based intervention, are experts in working with families and children. Which is why you are uniquely positioned to explore various factors that hamper sleep in children as well as test how your interventions bring about positive changes in children’s behavior.
School nurses have a role to play in restoring good sleeping practices in the American youth and EduHealth is a tool they can rely on to play that role well.