10 Dangers That Overtired Kids Face
Your seemingly healthy child may be harboring a serious health problem. Left unchecked, this highly common condition can contribute to weight gain and hinder school success. When your child is irritable, inattentive, or sullen, this often-overlooked ailment may be to blame.
The condition is chronic overtiredness. “Today’s children are notoriously sleep-deprived,” says sleep specialist Stephen Grant, MD.
Overtiredness is as preventable as it is pervasive. The more you know about how overtiredness affects children, the better you’ll be able to spot it — and stop this health saboteur in its tracks. Here are ten facts about overtiredness.
1. Tricky tots
Kids who need sleep often appear anything but sleepy. “Overtiredness can look like hyperactivity,” notes pediatric sleep specialist Maida Chen, MD. That means your child’s late-night burst of energy could actually be a sign of sleepiness.
2. School struggles
The National Sleep Foundation reports that sleep deprivation in children is associated with poor school performance and lowered test scores.
3. Weighty matters
Research shows that sleep deprivation increases the risk of obesity two-fold in children and adults. According to the journal Sleep, reduced REM sleep is associated with excess body weight in both kids and teens.
4. Diabetes danger
Multiple studies link insufficient sleep to increased diabetes risk, and new research published in Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that just one night of sleep deprivation can bring on insulin resistance, a factor in type 2 diabetes.
5. Too tired, too wired
It’s counterintuitive, but overtiredness makes sleep more difficult — so depriving kids of naps or encouraging too-late bedtimes to help kids sleep better at night often backfires. When kids are awake too long, an overbalance of adrenaline makes it difficult to reach and maintain deep, restorative sleep.
6. ADHD imposter
Overtiredness can masquerade in a host of ADHD-like symptoms, and even lead to what researchers call “faux ADHD,” or misdiagnosed ADHD. Faux ADHD is characterized by behavior problems, violence and learning difficulties.
7. Emotionally exhausted
New research links overtiredness brought on by missed naps to mood disorders in toddlers. Toddlers who miss naps have trouble expressing emotions, which has a lasting effect on their developing brains.
8. Night frights
Kids who are overtired are more prone to nightmares — doctors chalk this up to the fact that overtired children spend more time transitioning in and out of deep sleep.
9. Fidgety legs
Overtiredness worsens the symptoms of restless legs syndrome. According to adolescents and contributes to disrupted sleep, fatigue, and depression.
10. Early birds.
When overtired children reach the naturally-occurring phase of lighter sleep (from around 4-6am), many wake up and stay awake instead of rolling over and falling back to sleep.
Malia Jacobson is a freelance writer and mom of two. She blogs about sleep and parenting at Thewellrestedfamily.com