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How Sleep Affects Growth in Children

Children sleep 40% of their life away in their childhood. So, this tells you how important sleep is to the mental and physical growth development in a child. Without the proper amount of quality sleep, all aspects of a child's growth and development are negatively affected.

Many factors contribute to lack of sleep, or sleep deprivation, such as sleeping disorders, and lifestyle factors. Parents place great emphasis on making sure that their children eat right, get good grades, and exercise to facilitate their growth and development. However, one simple area that many parents turn a blind eye to, is the amount and quality of sleep that their children need.

Sleep disorders in children

Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders often cause sleep disruption in children, which have profound effects on the development and function of a child's body and brain. This is because most sleep disorders awaken you at night when you are in the deep sleep stage of sleeping. During deep sleep, the body is replenishing energy, tissues are growing and being repaired, and hormones needed for the body to develop and grow are being released.

Some of the most common sleep disorders in young children include the following:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Insomnia
  • Sleep terrors (or nightmares)

If your child has a sleep disorder and is awake in the middle of the deep sleep stage, the amount of deep sleep that your child receives each night decreases. If this continues, it can put your child at risk for obesity and may damage the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates appetite and energy.

How Does Lack of Sleep Affect Growth and Development?

When you are sleep deprived, it not only affects your ability to stay awake during the day; but it also affects your brain development, immune system, and mental health.

Brain Development

When your child is young their brain is still developing. therefore lack of sleep or lack of quality sleep lowers their ability to focus, and makes them less alert during the daytime. Sleep is what recharges your brain each night. When the brain is recharged instead of overworked you perform better physically; mentally, and emotionally.

Physical Health

Studies over the years in several countries have shown that there is a link between sleep deprivation and health issues. These health issues include the following:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity

This is due to HGH(human growth hormone) being produced while we sleep. HGH is responsible for regulating the areas of the body such as body fluids, composition; muscle; and growth, metabolism, and heart function. Sleep deprivation interferes with HGH levels being produced.

Mental Health

There have been research studies that have indicated a link between lack of sleep and mental health issues; such as depression; paranoia and anxiety. Sleep deprivation or insomnia affects the prefrontal cortex which is the part of the brain that controls emotions.

How Much Sleep Is Needed?

When a child can't sleep well, it reflects through their behavior. Children and this includes teenagers and adolescents, are irritable, impulsive, undisciplined, and may exhibit hyperactive behavior when they are sleep deprived.

According to experts, the amount of sleep a child needs depends on their age. Of course, everyone wants to sleep like a baby, however, even too much sleep can affect you negatively.

Here are the guidelines on the proper amount of sleep that your

  • Infants under the age of 2 need 13-14 hours*
  • Toddlers ages 2-3 need 12 hours*
  • Preschoolers (ages 3-5) need 11 hours-13 hours*
  • Children (ages 6-13) need 9-12 hours
  • Teens (ages 13-18)need 9-12 hours

For the age groups with the *; this is the total number of hours in 24 hours including naps. For all age groups, the hours of sleep are approximate based on the child's body and the amount of time in Non-REM sleep.

Do's And Don'ts Of Putting Your Child To Sleep

It's never too late to practice and reinforce good sleeping habits in your children. Here are some do's and don'ts that you should consider.


Some ways to help kids sleep

  • Make sure that your child has a consistent and regular bedtime each night.
  • Make sure your children are going to bed early. Depending on the amount of sleep that your child needs each night, and what time they should wake up in the morning, attributes to what time they should be going to bed. If your child needs to have 12 hours of sleep each night, and they need to be up by 7 am, their bedtime should be 7 pm.
  • This tip is for the younger children- create a bedtime routine each night, which includes a wind-down period. Keep it consistent, this lets your child know that it is time to wind down and go to bed.
  • Make sure that your child's sleeping environment encourages them to go to sleep. This means lights out and no noise.
  • Do make sure that your child is getting enough physical activity during the day so that they can fall asleep faster and sleep longer.


Children jumping wildly on the bed before sleep

  • Although physical activity is encouraged during the day, don't allow your child to do strenuous or intense physical activity or exercises less than 3 hours before bedtime. The physical activity will stimulate their bodies, giving them a "second wind", making it hard for them to fall asleep.
  • Don't let your child have sweet or caffeinated beverages late in the afternoon. This will affect your child's ability to fall asleep at night because of the sugar and caffeine.
  • Don't let your child use electronics an hour before bedtime. This includes televisions, tablets, computers, gaming consoles, and phones.
  • Don't let your child eat a heavy meal too close to bedtime. Try to encourage dinnertime of no later than 6:00 p.m.



Children believed that it was an urban legend when their mothers would tell them to go to sleep or you will stunt your growth. However, as you can see, lack of sleep not only will affect a young child but as they grow into adulthood it creates other problematic issues such as diabetes and obesity.

While it is perfectly normal to work long hours, miss naps here and there, or have a rigorous extracurricular activity schedule, at some point; there is the need for a regular sleep schedule. If you want your child to succeed in all aspects of life, make sure they are getting adequate sleep each night.