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The Link Between Sleep & Behaviour

Children who don't get enough sleep during the night are more than likely to be a very different child than they would if they were getting the adequate amounts of sleep. As adults we face difficulty when sleep deprived and this is even more so in the case of young children & infants where they can struggle to cope.

Ways that not getting enough sleep can present in children's everyday behaviour:

  • Mood - During the day your child can be rather irritable & fussy whilst struggling to regulate their emotions. Although young babies can sometimes be generally fussy, this will be made worse by a lack of sleep

  • Cognitive skills - Sleep deprivation can affect the way in which the brain is able to function at optimal levels, problem solving & paying attention can become more difficult than usual especially for school aged children

  • Hyperactivity - As parents we often believe our child's sleep amounts/timings are fine as they are so 'full of energy' and 'don't seem tired.' However sleep deprivation in young children can lead to hyperactivity where their bodies respond by making more Cortisol & Adrenaline so that they are able to stay awake

  • Tantrums - These will generally be more frequent due to your child's tendency to have a more pronounced reaction to a certain scenario as a result of heightened emotions. They sometimes will be inconsolable and difficult to calm down

  • Food/Feeding refusal - The inability to concentrate and sit still for extended periods of time for meals can be worsened particularly with older children. Babies & infants can have feeding refusal and may struggle to take in sufficient milk feeds which can make the sleep problem worse due to increased wakings from hunger

  • Difficulty waking in the morning - Just as adults who have not slept well struggle to wake in the morning, the same can be said for children. However it must be noted that this is not always the case and for some children, even after a bad night, can appear full of energy. As the day goes on, this energy slowly waxes & wanes and can be difficult for them to get through the day

Parents can look for these signs and then refer to a Sleep Specialist if need be. Recognising these behaviours and making changes to ensure your child has sufficient & age - appropriate sleep can be beneficial for the whole family where people will often say 'it's like its a completely different child!'

Words of affirmation: Good sleep is vital for the whole family's well-being

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