Sleep Loss in Kids (and How to Prevent it)

sleep loss in kids

Explore the effects of sleep loss in kids

Most of us know that sleep is essential to children’s health. That’s pretty common knowledge, but a recent study found that even 39 minutes of less sleep per night can negatively affect kids. 

The importance of sleep for kids

A research study recently published in the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) highlighted the importance of sleep related to kids’ overall wellbeing. The study featured 100 kids ages 8 to 12 living in New Zealand. The children were given manipulated bedtimes where their sleep time was reduced by 1 hour every night. The children and their parents were then given questionnaires to rank sleep disturbances during the night and impairments during the day. 

The results found that even 39 minutes of less sleep per night caused significant reductions in physical well-being, coping at school, and health-related quality of life (HRQOL).

These decreases aren’t the only areas where childrens’ quality of life is diminished by lack of sleep either. Mild sleep loss in kids, like the one featured in the study, can have negative impacts on a whole host of other issues such as social support, dietary intake, and movement.

The negative effects of sleep loss

A 2022 study examined the relationship between sleep loss in kids and children’s diet and movement. One group of children was given one additional hour of sleep and one group was given one hour less of sleep.

The results found that even mild sleep loss in children 8-12 may be a contributing factor to weight gain. Mild sleep deprivation was found to increase the amount of ultra-processed foods consumed with no apparent change in appetite levels. 

These changes signify that sleep loss has much more of an effect on kids than simply making them tired.

Children’s sleep loss has also been linked to increased levels of anxiety, decreased focus, less emotional regulation, and irritability.

How to increase sleep time

Researchers say that a nightly bedtime routine is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy sleep schedule. Pushing bedtimes back by increments of 15-minutes is also a great way to introduce more sleep into childrens’ lives.

A 2021 study from the University of Stanford found that after practicing mindfulness, kids gained more than an hour of sleep per night. Within this hour of gained sleep, almost a half hour was REM sleep, an important stage of sleep responsible for emotional processing and brain development, among other important functions.

Meditation and mindfulness benefit other areas of children’s lives too. Decreased anxiety, increased focus, more empathy, and stronger immunity are among the myriad of benefits children can experience.

This shows that even a slight increase in sleep for children can have a domino effect and positively impact their well-being.

Getting started

Including a meditation and mindfulness practice is a great, research-based way to help kids naturally reduce stress and fall asleep easier. With Wee Meditate, you’ll find stories and exercises where meditative themes are woven throughout imaginative tales, written to help kids gently fall asleep. Consider these meditative stories to help your child get ready for a full night of peaceful dreaming:

  • Snuggle into bed with Mouse and the Fireflies. Mouse travels to the land of the fireflies where he learns how they get their glow. Try listening right at bedtime, to evoke feelings of calm and relaxation for a good night’s sleep.
  • Before you start your nighttime routine, try listening to The Night Bridge*, a guided story meditation about transitioning from daytime to nighttime. Try listening after dinner, as kids begin to wind down from the activities of the day and get ready for bed.
  • Get cozy with Owl and the Moon*, a bedtime story where kids learn how to become friends with the night and reduce feelings of fright and worry at bedtime. 

*Only available for Wee Meditate subscribers. Sign up or login to start listening.