Alanna McGinn: A Good Night's Sleep


STUDY: Child’s Behavioral Issues Linked to Poor Sleep

Get some rest, Kiddo. You'll feel better, and so will we.


It’s no surprise that a toddler or child who is not sleeping enough - or well - is not the most pleasant person to be around the next day. I know what I’m like when I haven’t had the best night of sleep. Now imagine your child continuing these poor sleep habits throughout the years. A recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics states that toddlers struggling with sleep could display later emotional and behavioral issues as they get older. The study examined whether sleep issues recorded when the child was 18 months of age played a role in emotional and behavioral problems occurring when the child was 5 years-old. The mother-reported study - conducted in 2014 at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health - included a total of 32,662 children or pregnancies.

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The study showed that toddlers receiving less sleep than deemed age appropriate and those with frequent night wakings experienced more emotional and behavioral occurrences at the preschool age of five. When sleep adjustments were made at 18 months, the strength of the issues at age five weren’t as severe and we know that at any age once complete sleep health is focused on, frequent emotional and behavioral issues can stop all together.

Getting your child to sleep through the night can be tough, but there are age appropriate steps you can take to help you and your child start looking forward to bedtime and get your entire family sleeping better at night.

A Consistent Bedtime Routine is Always the Best Route

When you practice the same calming routine each night your child will learn to expect what is happening next and accept it better. It also allows you and your child to have that quiet attachment bonding time right before bed that may have been missed during your busy day.

Early Bedtime is Best

While your child is at daycare or preschool they could be missing out on proper restorative daytime sleep that they may still need. Remember, children need a lot more sleep than we do, so to balance out that missed sleep it’s always best to make sure they have an age appropriate bedtime. You are looking at a bedtime no later than 7:30 for your preschooler and as early as 6pm and no later than 7pm for your little daycare goer. This earlier bedtime will help with bedtime battles and early risers. While it may seem counter-intuitive, when children are put to bed too late they become overtired and have a hard time accepting sleep and staying asleep throughout the night. 

Don’t Get Rid of Naps Too Quickly

Don't believe the hype! Your toddler still needs a nap. Removing it and allowing your toddler to fall asleep simply because they are exhausted is not the route to take. Proper daytime sleep is beneficial to more than just how your child sleeps at night.

Know your child and watch their signs. Their mood is a key indicator on whether or not their nap is required and if it is (and believe me, it is) make sure it's not too long and doesn't run too late.

Early Morning Wakings be Gone!

If your child is getting up with the birds there are two things we want to look at: one is to make sure your child’s sleep environment is conducive to sleep. A darker environment is always best so installing blackout blinds may be necessary. Also a white noise machine can come in handy to keep the early morning birds and traffic sounds at bay. Lastly, if your child isn’t getting the proper amount of consolidated sleep throughout the day and going to bed too late, a sleep debt could be building, which can also result in early morning wakings.

I provide free child and family sleep support on my Facebook page. I invite you to join our sleep community as I work towards Good Night Sleep Site's mission of a healthier rested family unit. For more sleep tips please visit Good Night Sleep Site.