How Stress Can Affect Your Child’s Sleep Schedule

How Stress Can Affect Your Child’s Sleep Schedule

Stress has a way of creeping up on us when we least expect it.  Parents understand how crippling stress can be on your waking hours and how it can lead to insomnia at times.  But, have you ever considered that your child might get stressed out too? Before you think that’s not possible due to their young age and small stature, take a minute to peruse the common causes of stress in children and what you can do to keep them on the path towards a good night sleep.


Common Causes of Stress in Children

As you’re exhausted from doing the 5 billionth load of laundry after a grueling day of work (of the office or house variety), you might think that your child has it pretty good.   When they get home from school, they can do what they please. If they’d like a snack, they can reach for one without having it all go to their thighs. Regardless of what we might think of the possibility of the relatively low-stress lives that we’ve built for our children, we have to acknowledge that sometimes, they get stressed out about a few things such as:

  • School
  • Peer Pressure
  • Bullying
  • Family Difficulties
  • Sudden, Unexpected Life Changes

These changes can lead to your child having difficulty sleeping and the possibility of developing an irregular sleep schedule that can affect their circadian rhythm.  Sometimes, children are just too wound up from their day getting excited about the day(s) ahead or afraid that they are going to have another nightmare. Whatever the reason for their stress, the key is to acknowledge that their stress exists rather than brushing it under the rug.

Some experts consider a sleep difficulty to be significant when it takes someone more than 30 minutes to fall asleep on 3 nights a week over the course of at least 3 months.  If sleep problems persist for many years, it can impair your child’s ability to complete tasks that require a higher level of thinking later in life. In fact, children that don't get enough sleep (12 to 14 hours total for toddlers; 11 to 13 hours for preschoolers) have been known to experience a significant decrease in IQ points equivalent to what's typically seen in a child who has lead poisoning.

Sleep Strategies to Alleviate Stress

When your child is visually upset about something, the first people they turn to are their family members.  As their parent, it is important for you to make yourself available for fun activities or just be in the same room as them to show interest in their day.  This helps to ground them in reality and allow them to open up about what is bothering them to ensure that you can provide them with a solution if/when they are comfortable talking about it.

If stress is affecting your child’s sleep to the point where it is affecting their mood and ability to process the world around them, it might be best to tweak their bedtime routine on top of being more present.  After all, getting an adequate amount of sleep and rest can help your child become more resilient to stress!

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