Sleepless Nights Can Cause Behavioural Issues In Pre-Schoolers?

Children - Sleep and Behaviour Problems
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Do you often get complaints from the school about your child being drowsy in class? Does he/she have trouble remembering things?

If your answer is Yes, then this could possibly be sleeplessness caused behavioral issue, if this recent research study is to be believed…

A new study published in Academics Pediatrics suggests that Pre-schoolers who get too little sleep may be more likely to have trouble paying attention, controlling their emotions and processing information later in childhood.

Lead researcher Dr Elsie Taveras, Chief of General Paediatrics at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston said that, By age 7, these sleepless kids had markedly decreased mental and emotional functioning.

The children exhibited “poorer ability to pay attention, poorer emotional control, poorer executive function in general, and more behavioural problems.”

“If you think about it, these are the basic functions of a child’s life. It really has implications on their ability to perform at school and home, and in relationships with their peers,” Taveras added.

As part of the study, mothers of 1,046 Project Viva kids filled out regular questionnaires, including how much sleep their children routinely got.

Sleep recommendations vary by age. In general, kids 3 to 4 years old need 11 hours of sleep each day, Taveras said. Younger kids need more, and older kids a little less.

When the kids reached age 7, both the mothers and the children’s teachers filled out an additional questionnaire aimed at assessing each child’s “executive function.” Executive function includes attention and reasoning — the brain’s ability to process incoming information and respond appropriately, Taveras said.

The mothers’ and teachers’ reports revealed similar associations between poor functioning and not receiving sufficient sleep from age 3 onward, the researchers found.

Previous studies have shown that sleep is important for good brain function, and might be even more critical in the developing brains of children, Taveras said.

Dr. Judith Anne Owens, director of sleep medicine for Rhode Island Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital, says, “A lack of sleep can affect the brain’s plasticity — the ability to change in response to environmental influences and experiences.”

It’s thought that sleep also gives the brain a chance to rid itself of toxins that accumulate throughout the day.

Sleep deprivation has been shown to affect parts of the brain related to reasoning and emotional control, Owens added. Some people look to get more information about sleep online because of this. These include the prefrontal cortex (which governs executive functions), the amygdala (which regulates emotion), and the striatum (which regulates impulse control).

Parents can help their kids get better sleep by creating a regular bedtime routine that properly prepares them for sleep, Taveras and Owens said.

One good strategy for setting a bedtime is figuring out when the child needs to wake up, and then counting backwards based on the recommended hours of sleep, Owens said.

Taveras added that dark curtains and a cool, quiet room can help kids slip off to sleep. Also, parents should avoid giving kids caffeine or sugar later in the day, she said.

At the same time, parents shouldn’t beat themselves up with worry if their child doesn’t get a huge amount of sleep, Owens said.

If their child wakes spontaneously in the morning in a good mood, ready to start the day, and isn’t dozing off during the day or having behaviour that’s suggestive of insufficient sleep, “then I think that’s reassuring for parents,” Owens said. “Maybe they’re on the lower end of the spectrum but that’s OK. They’re functioning just fine.

Speaking to Parents in the city, Dipa Shivatre, Housewife says, “Am not sure if my kids are facing any behavioural issues due to lack of sleep. However, they do play video games late into the night and get up early morning for school and end up being cranky and give reasons for not wanting to go to school.

My kids often complain about being tired and now with this research, I feel it could be a behavioral issue caused by the lack of sleep, says, Rohini Khedkar a housewife.

My husband comes late in the night and they don’t sleep till their father is home. They have early morning school and are very low on energy always, Rohini added.

Responding to this, a Pune based Paediatrician says that it is important that kids sleep for a minimum of 8 hours irrespective of their age.

Children may develop such issues because of irregular sleeping timing, spending time with gadgets, or watching TV. Some may also have late eating habits.

Sleepless nights can cause many problems in children, It has a lot of negative impacts and can hamper the child’s performance, social relationships, and so on…

A lack of sleep may lead to injury, behaviour problems, performance problems, and overeating among other issues.

Sleeplessness related behavior in the kids can be treated easily by parents. Parents need to establish a regular sleeping time and stick to it. Also, their wake up time should not differ except on weekends with at best, 2-3 hrs more. They should also check that there are no other issues coming into play. For example, parents should really check that the mattress the child is sleeping on is comfortable enough for them. If they’ve complained of any pain in their back, for example, it may be a sign that the mattress needs swapping for a newer one. If that’s the case, it might be worth visiting a company like Simba to see if they have any mattresses that may be better for your child. If the mattress is the reason behind the lack of sleep, it should help them to get more comfortable at night and sleep better.

Indulge them in some physical activities every day at least for an hour, be it playing, or curricular activities. Create a bedtime atmosphere in their room, read stories to them or bathe them with warm water an hour before their bedtime.

Do not give caffeine to kids post-dinner or 4-5 hrs before their bedtime. Avoid giving large meals to children before their bedtime.

Switch off all your devices an hour before sleep time. There should be no television, mobile phone, laptop or radio playing when the child is going to sleep.

These steps should tackle the normal sleep issues, however if you do not see resolution at this stage, it is best to consult your doctor.


#All views reflected in this article are those of the respondents and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them. All medical information mentioned is for reader awareness only and is not to be construed as professional advise/remedy.

Ankita Malekar

Ankita Malekar

A talkative tiny speck in the world of Media, with an itch for travel and paws.
Ankita Malekar