Bratty Child? Is He Getting Good Sleep?


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?

Related Stories:

Some School Bullies Might Just Be Sleep-Deprived

7 Ways School Is Hazardous to Your Health

Nearly 1 in 10 Children Now Diagnosed With ADHD

Photo credit: anoldent via flickr


Carole R.
Carole R5 years ago

When we sleep, we heal. Both body and mind.

Becky Y.
Rebecca Y6 years ago

In order to grow, everyone needs nutritious food, water, sunlight and rest. Children need positive discipline, encouragement, positive reinforcement, praise when accomplishments are achieved, and consistency with hugs, kisses and love. We need to show by example that we don't always have to win to have fun, that playing the game is half the fun; life is not perfect and there are no perfect people so just do the best you can and you are just fine.

Ryder W.
Past Member 6 years ago

the only times i ever misbehaved when i was a kid were either when i was tired or hungry.

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Mrs Shakespeare
Mrs Shakespeare6 years ago

I have a feeling that i've read this article before :S
Anyways, you might be right, but I've known my share of brats, and in most cases, its discipline they arent getting enough of! I know a brat who is an a-hole (I mean it) to his mom in the morning, refusing to wake up, and faking reasons so he can skip school etc, but he is also that nasty on holidays when he can sleep as much as he wants! So yes, maybe he is faced with too much pressure at times, maybe he is stressed, tired, frustrated, but how come well-disciplined kids can deal with these feelings without ridiculing and disrespecting their parents?

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L6 years ago

I had a younger friend and her 2 children living with me for about 2 years. She and they drove me crazy, mainly because of the mother. These kids were up a 5:30 am so we could drive them to school (out of our district, which they could have walked to) in time and be off to work so we wouldn't be late. Then they would walk home to a friend’s house and do homework (most of the time they didn't they played) so the homework had to be done after we picked them up. We would get them home and I'd cook while she helped them with their homework. We ate about 6 pm or 6:30 pm. Then there was music lessons, soccer lesson, free concerts in the park, time for video games, etc., etc. The kids wouldn't get to bed until 10 or 11 o’clock, because of course there was TV and the video games before bed. Yes, she wondered why she couldn't get them up in the morning especially the young boy. And yes she took him to a professional and he diagnosis him with ADHD and wanted to put him on meds. Thankfully after a lot of pleading from me, she didn't do that. But I asked if we could reduce their functions and made bedtime earlier, we did. I got the boy up myself in the morning because all she seemed to do was yell at him for being lazy. It was working out better with them getting sleep and less yelling around the house. I dreaded, for the kids sake, to see them go.
I think it is and should be on the shoulder of the parents. They are driving their kids crazy and teaching them some ve

Suzanne H.
Suzanne H6 years ago

Sleep is an essential component for all sentient beings..............and most important for our young....

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers6 years ago

Children spend too long on electronic games etc. before bedtime. They are hyped up and unable to rest properly!

Zoe B.
Zoe B6 years ago

It's not just about sleep though, is it, i mean, the sugar, the computer games, the television, the "treats", they're spoiled. Then, the second they're not staring at a screen, or hooked into a nintendo, and actually forced to think for themselves, they start freaking out, looking for attention, and acting up.

Brian M.
Past Member 6 years ago

We dread spending time with our granddaughter. Though she is quite good for the first few hours of the day, she quickly turns into a cranky, screaming, violent monster...and it's all because her parents refuse to act like parents and establish a reasonable bed time.