Tiredness in Children

Exhaustion, Fatigue, Sleeplessness, Tiredness

School-aged children still need somewhere between 9 and 12 hours of sleep at night. At this age, they usually start a trend towards becoming more and more sleep deprived.

A child is getting is getting the right amount of sleep if they:

  • Can fall asleep within 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Can wake up easily at the time they need to get up and don't need continual chasing.
  • Are awake and alert all day and don't need a nap during the day.
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Unfortunately, not getting a good night's sleep can affect a child’s mood and behaviour during the day, leading to school and discipline problems. Sleeping studies have showed that less sleep at night means more behavioural problems during the day, poor sleep in children with bad grades in classes such as maths, reading and writing and some studies show that sleep disturbed children have more depressive symptoms and anxiety disorders.

Symptoms of childhood insomnia can include:

  • irritability
  • mood swings
  • hyperactivity
  • depression
  • aggression
  • a decreased attention span
  • memory problems

Bear in mind, that children diagnosed with ADHD usually have sleep problems and not getting a good night’s sleep can make all of the symptoms of ADHD worse. Similarly, children who appear to have symptoms of ADHD may have a sleep disorder and the ADHD symptoms go away when the root of the sleeplessness is addressed.

Sleep problems can be classified into two major categories, within which there are over 30 types. The first is dysomnias. These disorders are seen as either excessive sleepiness or difficulty in maintaining or initiating sleep. In children, dysomnias may include:

  • Intrinsic sleep disorders, such as snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), childhood onset insomnia, hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) and narcolepsy (falling asleep unexpectedly).
  • Extrinsic sleep disorders, such as inadequate sleep hygiene, limit setting sleep disorder, food allergy insomnia and adjustment sleep disorder.
  • Circadian-rhythm sleep disorders, such as jet lag and irregular sleep wake pattern.
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The second class of sleep disorders is parasomnias. In children, parasomnias may include:

  • Arousal disorders, such as sleepwalking, night terrors.
  • Transition disorders, such as sleep talking, sleep starts (muscular jerks), leg cramps, body rocking or head banging.
  • REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, such as nightmares.
  • Other conditions, such as infantsleep apnoea and sleep bedwetting (nocturnal enuresis).

Insomnia is a disruption of the sleep cycle that includes difficulties getting to sleep, difficulties staying asleep, and possibly early morning awakenings. In children, insomnia can last a few nights or can be long-term, lasting weeks. Children with sleep anxiety may have insomnia. Other insomnia triggers include daily or chronic stress, pain or mental health issues.

If your child has insomnia, here are things you can do:

  • Try to identify and address stressors. For example, additional homework, problems with friends, or a move to a new house or school, can cause night-time anxiety.
  • Establish a regular bedtime routine that allows your child time to relax before the lights go out.
  • If insomnia continues, seek advice about ways to resolve the sleep problem.
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