Sleepless in Rapid City: A child’s sleeping patterns can affect more than just behavior

A child can benefit from healthy sleep patterns, right from the beginning.
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 2:06 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Behavior patterns in children form in different ways. The causes for these behaviors may change the way they are able to focus and learn in everyday life. A child can benefit from healthy sleep patterns, right from the beginning.

Getting to sleep can be tough even for an adult, but a child’s sleep patterns are crucial to their development. A child’s ability to fall asleep can affect their behavior and learning patterns, now- and for the rest of their lives.

Getting enough sleep is crucial to children during key developmental stages, and a lack of sleep when you are young can continue to affect behaviors and learning patterns well into the future.

Occupational therapy is one-way children can relearn sleeping habits- in order to form better ones in the future.

“If a child isn’t getting enough sleep it’s going to affect things like executive functioning, which is an umbrella term that talks about or that breaks into attention, difficulty with problem-solving, and your working memory. So all of the things are going to play into the child’s ability to participate in any subject within the classroom,” says Kelsey Bonavida, from Black Hills Pediatric Therapy

These behaviors can present themselves in different forms- leaving lack of sleep to be an answer that is last looked at, chalking up the bad behaviors to other things, like ADHD.

“When a child isn’t getting enough sleep it can often present like ADHD, so having difficulty with attention, inability to sit still or hyperactivity,” Bonavita continues.

Common styles in which a lack of sleep can present itself are not just looking tired but can cause issues in focusing, functioning, and retaining information throughout the day. This can form habits that increase as they get older.

“When a child doesn’t get enough sleep as a toddler by the time that they are 7 years old, this executive functioning, like we were talking about, continues- your brain is continuing to develop that executive functioning and so if you’re not getting enough sleep throughout that whole time, likely that development might have been affected by that. As a toddler, your difficulty with working memory might be that you can’t count to ten, but as a fourth grader, your working memory might be a little more detailed in that math skills are multiple steps and sequencing in that way, while your brain is thinking and working through them can grow more difficult for the child,” she concludes.

Bonavida recommends preschoolers get 10-13 hours of sleep, school-aged kids need 9 to 11 hours, and teenagers need 8 to 10 hours per night.