Posts Tagged ‘sleep deprivation’

Can sleep affect your child with special needs? Or you?

Friday, April 21st, 2017


Quick answer…YES. Sleep is more than, well, sleep. It is restorative and essential to a healthy life. It is as important as water, food and air. For a child with special needs, it can make the difference between an “okay day” and a horrible one.

What does sleep do for your child?

A study in Pediatrics revealed that “Children with non-regular bedtimes had more behavioral difficulties…Having regular bedtimes during early childhood is an important influence on children’s behavior.”

Non-regular bedtimes can disrupt your child’s behavior because it interferes with a body’s circadian rhythms (sleep cycle). It may also result in sleep deprivation, which may then negatively affect the part of the brain responsible for regulating behaviors. But, when children with non-regular bedtimes changed to regular bedtimes, parents reported positive changes in their behaviors. (Yay!)

Sleep also helps a person…

• get to and maintain a healthy weight

• stay healthy (you get sick less frequently)

• grow (if you are a baby, child or teen)

• lower your risk of high blood pressure and diabetes

• boost your mood

• think clearly, be more focused, and sharp

All of these benefits will allow your child to feel happier, do better at school, avoid injuries and be at his best – and that includes being better behaved.

For adults, the benefits are the same, making you more efficient at work, more energetic, less likely to make mistakes, and able to maintain a positive outlook. It also helps you to maintain patience – something needed when you are dealing with babies, children or teenagers, with or without special needs.

How much sleep do you really need?

• newborns need 16 -18 hours of sleep each day

• preschoolers need 11-12 hours per day

• school-aged kids need at least 10 hours

• teens need at least 9 hours of sleep each night

• adults need about 7-8 hours of sleep each night (some people need more, some less).

Note the words “at least,” as there are many kids who need much more sleep in order to function properly, depending on their lifestyle and medical condition.

What happens if you don’t get enough sleep?tired-family-in-car3

Children and teens need sleep to help their bodies grow. Cells regenerate at night during sleep. By not getting enough sleep, the hormone balance in a child will be thrown off. Without adequate sleep, a child’s immune system will have a harder time fighting off germs and diseases.

If you don’t get enough sleep, your “sleep debt” will increase to a point when you will need to make up for the lost sleep. If you do not get the sleep you need, your body won’t operate as it should. Your judgment and reaction times will be negatively affected. This can be dangerous for adults, especially if you are caring for an infant or child, or you are driving a car. Lack of sleep and driving is risky – it is as dangerous a combination as drinking alcohol and driving!

Where can you get more info?

For information on how to get a restful night’s sleep, sleep tips for children and adults, and when to see a doctor regarding possible sleep problems, see this handy guide.

If you are pregnant, you may have trouble finding a comfortable sleep position. Try sleeping on your left side with a pillow between your legs. Here are other tips.

Bottom line

Sleep is not a luxury; it is a necessity. By keeping a regular bedtime, your child’s health and behaviors may improve. Think of sleep as an essential nutrient (like a vitamin). Then, you may be able to make sleep one of the priorities in your life.

If you and your little one get the sleep you need, you will see and feel a positive difference.

Have questions? Text or email

For additional information on parenting a child with special needs, see our series on Delays and Disabilities.

Time change make you grumpy?

Monday, March 12th, 2012

tired-outDaylight savings has half the people in the office grumpy today. Of the grumps, most are yawning and saying they didn’t get enough sleep. “How come the kids have to get up even earlier when we lose an hour of sleep?” was Sunday’s complaint. Today, however, it appears that dynamite wouldn’t wake up some of these sleepy kiddos.  What’s up with that?

Time changes affect a person’s sleep routine which can cause temporary drowsiness and irritability. The good news is that most people get over it in a day or two. Prolonged sleep deprivation is another story, however, and can have serious consequences that impact your health. If your grumpiness and sense of exhaustion has been a part of your life for a long time and you’re concerned about a possible sleep disorder (you can read about many of them at this link), talk to your health care provider.

For a point of reference, sleep needs vary from person to person, and they change throughout the lifecycle. According to the National Institutes of Health, on average, newborns sleep between 16 and 18 hours a day, while children in preschool sleep between 10 and 12 hours a day. School-aged children and teens need at least 9 hours of sleep a night. Most adults need 7–8 hours of sleep each night.

If you want to get back that lost hour and feel less grumpy tomorrow, do yourself a favor. For tonight, put down your smart phones and laptops, turn off the TV and hit the sack a little early. One good snooze should help reset your inner clock and you should feel much better tomorrow.

Sleeping through the night yet?

Friday, December 10th, 2010

not-sleepingA friend and colleague of mine recently had a baby. Oh happy day – oh tired parents! The question of the moment is “When will she sleep through the night?” When will the many little cat naps turn into a serious chunk of snooze? When we’re sleep deprived, months can feel like years.

A recent study published in the Oct. 25 issue of the journal Pediatrics states that most babies begin to adjust their sleep patterns between the age of two and four months. Sounds good, but the trick for sleepy parents is to have the baby sleeping at the same time they need to sleep. The study found infants are most likely to begin sleeping during the period between 10 PM and 6 AM at age 3 months, with over 50% doing so at five months.

But then, there are plenty of exceptions that “prove the rule,” if you know what I mean. I had one baby who slept like a log right from the get go.  The other one was way too excited by life and seemed to want to be tuned in all the time (Sleep? Who needs that?).  How long did it take for your baby to sleep through the night? Got any pearls of wisdom for my friend?

Are you getting enough sleep?

Monday, October 4th, 2010

tiredA consistent sleep schedule is good for all of us, but a new study published in the journal Sleep suggests that it may be extra important during pregnancy.  The study of 1,300 pregnant women showed that many women who get six or less hours of sleep or more than 10 hours per night have elevated blood pressure.  The study also showed a link between the amount of sleep a pregnant woman gets and preeclampsia, a serious disorder characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine.

Dr. Michelle A. Williams, principal investigator and lead author, states, “If our results are confirmed by other studies, the findings may motivate increased efforts aimed at exploring lifestyle approaches, particularly improved sleep habits, to lower preeclampsia risk.”  She looks forward to more research and sleep studies of pregnant women to confirm her results.

Almost all pregnant women have sleep problems of one sort or another at some point.  If you are thinking about a pregnancy in the future, start fine tuning your sleeping habits now and get into a good routine.  Read our information on sleeping problems and what you can do to help get a better night’s sleep.

And if you have a new baby in the house, you’re probably getting your sleep in bits and pieces.  Go to bed early and consider trading off feedings (a spouse can give a bottle of breastmilk for one of the feedings).  And if you are one of many parents who continue to have sleeping problems once your baby starts sleeping through the night, realize that you are not alone.  Many parents have difficulty returning from short chunks of sleep to normal sleep patterns.  If you’re suffering from insomnia and exhaustion, don’t be shy about asking your doc to refer you to a behavioral sleep specialist.  Getting enough Zs is critical to maintaining good health.


Monday, November 30th, 2009

19084068_thbAll weekend long I kept asking myself, “what am I forgetting?” It was driving me crazy. I knew there was something I was supposed to do. Then I logged onto the computer this morning and it dawned on me. I forgot to write a blog post for Friday. DOH!  I hate to admit that I have a memory problem (especially to colleagues), but unfortunately this is just one out of a hundred examples that I can give about the mental fog that I’m in.

I almost forgot my wedding anniversary recently. Good thing he brought it up the day before and I had a chance to run out and grab a card. I walk into a room and completely forget what I was intending to do. I can never find my cell phone. I have to keep sticky-notes on the computer screen, frig and in my car to serve as reminders. Put gas in car. Buy diapers. Call sister for her birthday. Take baby for flu shot. If it’s not in writing it’s not getting done. I actually just remembered that there are wet towels in the washing machine from two days ago. Gross.

This wasn’t always the case. I was sharp once, or so I thought. I wonder if I ever will be again or is this it? I’ve done a little reading and although researchers can’t explain all the ways motherhood affects a woman’s memory, they agree it can happen. Plummeting hormone levels after delivery, fatigue, stress/anxiety, drastically changed priorities and breastfeeding might be the culprits.

I wanted to end this post with a funny story, but unfortunately I can’t think of one, so that’s that.  Have a good day and please feel free to share your favorite ‘momnesia’ moment.

Sleep deprivation – amazing what it can do to you

Monday, April 13th, 2009

tired-yawnAside from making you feel like you’ve been dragged behind a submarine for a few days or that you have only three functional brain cells left in your body, prolonged sleep deprivation can really mess with your health.  But, according to the director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health, getting enough rest at night can work wonders by reducing your risk of diabetes, hypertension and obesity.  Sounds good to me.

A recent study showed that people who sleep less than seven hours a night are three times more likely to develop a respiratory illness after exposure to a cold virus than those who sleep eight hours or more.  Hmmmm, maybe we should turn off that late night TV.

Some people (about 40 million of us!) have a form of insomnia, or difficulty falling or staying asleep.  Some others, like my husband, have sleep apnea with symptoms that include snoring, gasping for air when waking up and excessive daytime sleepiness or morning headaches.  Sleep apnea is associated with a two-fold increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.  No thank you!  My husband went for a sleep study and now sleeps like a baby with the help of a funky little machine that we have nick-named “the snorkel.”  Great little gadget!

Did you know that a cooler body temp is associated with better sleep?  So it’s best to finish any aerobic exercises at least three hours before you hit the sack.  A dark room usually is a better sleeping environment because it helps your body with the secretion of melatonin, a chemical that helps you sleep – another reason to keep that TV off.  For more healthy sleep tips, click here.

How will the baby affect our relationship?

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

After the baby is born I wonder how long it will be until my husband and I go to a movie or out to dinner. How old will the baby be before I feel comfortable leaving him/her with a relative or babysitter for a night out. At the moment we can accept an invitation to get together with friends any night of the week. RSVP, “yes” to a wedding that’s an hour away or plan a vacation and pack one small suitcase.

It seems people like to ask how I’m sleeping lately. When I say, “just fine” the standard come-back is usually, “well enjoy it while you can.” Oh, zip-it! I know they’re right, but I hate hearing that. How will sleep deprivation affect my relationship with my husband and our ability to be patient or affectionate? I don’t know yet. I hear all the time that couples need to make time for each other. But realistically, especially in the beginning, is that possible?

Before I got pregnant, I thought about the emotional and lifestyle changes we’ll face as parents. We both decided that we were ready for this. Now that my due date is right around the corner it’s really setting in though. Our independence and free time will NEVER be what it once was. Are you having or thinking about having a baby? Do you worry about this stuff, too?