It isn’t news that children who are tired are just plain ugly to be around. The bad attitudes, the negative response and lack of engagement are signals to any caretaker that the child under their care needs a nap, or to simply to go to bed for the evening.
As an educator, former nanny and practitioner, I saw this a lot. Many parents also unwittingly impose this lack of sleep on their children by over-scheduling their activities, and then taking them to be diagnosed with ADD or ADHD when the tyke cannot focus on one thing or another. Puzzled, they shake their heads, saying, “He is so active and bounces from one thing to another all day. But I have trouble getting him out of bed in the morning.”
One of my first recommendations is to cut back on the activities and let him or her sleep more, even a quick nap in the afternoon if needed. Growing brains need both down time and more sleep than do adult brains. Expert opinions vary, but on the average, school-age children need 10 hours of sleep per night: more as they become teenagers. This may seem excessive, but I would point out that this sleep is more important to the health of the brain than it is to the body. In teenagers, puberty requires more from the body, but the brain has not changed its needs at all. Enter the unruly, slightly smelly teenager who sleeps until noon whenever he gets the chance. (I have no explanation for it if lasts past their mid twenties).
Sadly, we are now seeing a larger and larger percentage of children with sleep disorders. A team of eight researchers from Ann Arbor, Michigan investigated whether urban school children with aggressive behaviors were more likely than their peers to display symptoms of sleep disordered breathing. If this is true, this type of breathing effectively inhibits oxygen flow to the brain, creating behaviors very similar to an overly-tired toddler.
The results of the study indicate that aggressive children (e.g. with conduct problems, bullying, or discipline referrals), in comparison to their non-aggressive peers more often had symptoms suggestive of sleep-disordered breathing. Children with conduct problems were more likely to snore habitually. However, sleepiness, and not snoring, predicted the conduct issues.
So, it seems that sleepy kids are more likely to be bullying kids. It makes sense. I have felt bullied by a cranky three-year-old before I realized what was going on and suggested to her parents that their little darling might need a bedtime. But the kids who are getting enough sleep are the kids getting bullied, and as educators and caretakers, we should probably keep an eye out for this type of behavior and maybe drop a bug in the caretaker’s ear.
The lead for the Michigan research team, Dr. Louise O’Brien, issued this quote “While many people thought that it would be snoring that was driving this aggressive behavior, it appeared to be the daytime sleepiness that was driving it.”
But nowhere is there an idea of what is causing the sleepiness or the disordered breathing. What do you think is causing it?
Photo credit: anoldent via flickr