Can Lack of Sleep Make Kids Sick?

Sleepy Child…how to know if poor sleep is to blame

Sleep is often overlooked as a factor in optimal health and immune function. Though insomnia is pandemic among adults, kids too are vulnerable. They’re still busy building life-long habits and developing their physical body.

Yet experts estimate 25-40% of all children have problems sleeping. The risk increases for teens, and those suffering from depression, numerous anxiety disorders, and ADHD.
Now, researchers have shown a link between lack of sleep and decreased immune function. Here’s what they learned.

When sleep-deprived, your immune system kicks into high gear and produces extra white blood cells. The exact same mechanism it uses to defend against foreign invaders, like infections or diseases.

So, your body acts like it is sick when you get too little or poor sleep. Which may explain why kids—and adults—feel sick after a sleepless night.

But it gets worse.

Newer research now points to sleep deprivation as a risk factor for many health complications. Neurological diseases like stroke, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, headaches, epilepsy, pain, and somnambulism (sleepwalking). Still other studies suggest increased risk for stomach ulcers, kidney disease, heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, and other chronic diseases.

So, it’s critically important you help your child develop good, consistent sleep habits as early in life as possible.

How much sleep is enough?

Most experts agree, grade-schoolers should get 10-11 hours of high quality sleep and high-schoolers 9-10 hours. The challenge is…how do parents make this happen?
At Beyond Health, We always recommend you listen to your body. Whether it’s food, exercise, illness…or sleep, help kids notice what their body requires for optimal health.
Beyond that, kids look for parents to lead by example. We know this can sometimes be a challenge, so here are a few guidelines to help you ensure that at least your kids are getting enough quality sleep…especially during the school year.

  • Watch their diet. Eliminate sugary foods and drinks, wheat, and dairy, especially during the evening hours. Identify hidden food allergies to solve sleep issues. Process foods and fast foods usually contain glutemates that excite the brain and interfere with sleep.
  • Develop a sleep routine that includes some quiet time. Things like picking out clothes for the next day, taking a bath, reading a book, or journaling. It is essential kids develop this habit early on.
  • Turn off electronics. Cell phones and other electronics emit electromagnetic radiation that is toxic to the human body. Limit use during the day, but also make sure they get shut down at least two hours before bed.
  • Keep light levels low. The human brain needs to register darkness for optimal release of a natural sleep hormone, melatonin. Turn off or dim down any bright lighting at least one hour before bed. A totally dark room is ideal.

Of course, it can’t hurt to allow an occasional detour from these guidelines with a family late-night movie. However, this should be the exception, rather than the rule.

Sources:
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/08/04/immune-system-and-sleep-deprivation.aspx
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23027917
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