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How Sleep Affects Your Child's Behavior

I saw a great little coffee mug on Amazon the other day, with three little lines drawn along the side. Underneath the top one, it said, “Silence!”

Under the middle one, “Not yet…”

And under the one right near the bottom, it read, “Now you may speak.”

Cute, right? As grown ups, we find it amusing how we’re so grumpy in the mornings until we’ve gotten that kick-start from our first cup of coffee. It’s one of those strange circumstances where we’ve all got the same addiction, so we tend to just laugh it off.

But what about our kids? We can’t hook them up with a morning pour-over to shake off the cobwebs, and have you tasted those vile “caffeine-free, all-natural” energy potions? Ugh, barf. If that’s what nature tastes like, bring on the chemicals.

But let’s get serious for a moment here, because sleep, or rather the lack of it, is genuinely hard on you and your kids.

Kids who are sleep deprived exhibit some seriously undesirable behaviors like hyperactivity, temper tantrums, defiant behavior, overeating, and lack of coordination. (Hopefully not all at once, mind you, because that would be a nightmare. An angry, clumsy, overstimulated kid is bad enough, but if they’re eating all of my Almond Roca, that’s where I draw the line.)

If you’re thinking I’ve mistaken the symptoms of sleep deprivation with ADHD, there’s a good reason. The markers for both are so similar that experts are suggesting there may be an epidemic of misdiagnoses.

So that’s obviously no good, but the problem isn’t just the symptoms that are on display. Sleep deprivation can elevate blood pressure, weaken your child’s immune system, contribute to obesity, and impair the normal function of the central nervous system, all of which might go unnoticed until later on in their development, when things start becoming more noticeable.

Now, obviously nobody in their right mind would want their kids to be sleepy, grouchy, and unhealthy, so why is it still an issue. Wouldn’t parents of sleepy kids start putting them to bed earlier?

Well, sometimes, but not always. Of course, if someone’s child is stumbling around rubbing their eyes and yawning, any parent in their right mind is going to call it bedtime, but that’s not the way sleepiness manifests in a lot of kids.

In fact, most kids show they’re tired by tearing around like their hair’s on fire. Seems counter-intuitive, I know, but that’s what happens. Their bodies get ready for some sleepy time, realize it’s not coming, and then compensate by revving back up again, and usually overdoing it, which makes them all bouncy and hyper.

So many of my clients have this experience. “He just doesn’t get tired before 11:00 at night,” they say, to which I typically respond, “He’s not telling you he’s tired at 7:00 at night, but he’s not a reliable source of information.”

This is why it irks me a little when I hear parents saying, “We just let him sleep when he wants to sleep. His body knows what it needs.”

Nature, as we’ve already established with the energy potions, is not perfect. In fact, the human body, miracle that it is, is a deeply flawed machine, and kids’ bodies are prone to all kinds of glitches and miscues.

So do yourself, and your kids, a favor. Set up a sleep schedule based on the recommended guidelines, give it a few weeks, tweak it as necessary, and stick to it after that. Chances are, you’ll see a noticeable improvement in their behavior within just a few days.

They may, however, continue to attempt to eat your Almond Roca. Best to send it to me for safe-keeping.

If your baby, infant or toddler is having trouble sleeping through the night, help is just a click away! The Sleep Sense Program has helped over 57,00 parents to get their kids sleeping 11-12 hours through the night AND taking long, restful naps during the day. If you’re ready to get started today – I’m looking forward to helping you!

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The Sleep Sense Philosophy

Cry-it-out? Coddle? Co-sleep? Attachment parenting? Ferberizing?
If you’re going to let me help you with something as precious as your child’s sleep, you probably want to know a little bit about who I am and exactly how I think...

Dana’s Sleep Blog

Straight talk about sleep, parenting,
babies, toddlers, relationships… and
just about anything else!
My blog is a great place to find opinions, advice, the occasional rant, and some great videos about sleep.

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