Parenting Health

Can 'Lack Of Sleep' Stunt Your Child's Growth? Yes! Says The Doctor

Dr Shipra Mathur
1 to 3 years

Created by Dr Shipra Mathur
Updated on Nov 27, 2018

Can Lack Of Sleep Stunt Your Childs Growth Yes Says The Doctor

Sleep is vital to health for everyone but most importantly to children, due to their rapid growth and development in such a small period of time. Quality sleep allows your child’s mind and body to rest, recover and recharge to learn and grow both mentally and physically. In this blog, we'll explore if lack of sleep can stunt your child's growth and is there a medical backing to this claim. Let's look at the cognitive aspect of it first...

Sleep & Learning/Brain Development - Is there a correlation?

Yes! Sleep deprivation can significantly affect a child’s cognitive development. Studies show that the brain needs a certain amount of sleep to learn tasks that you have completed through the day and to consolidate memories. Moreover,, studies have found links between poor learning due to lack of concentration and sleep patterns of a child. A well-rested brain can solve problems better, learn new information faster and carry out daily activities far more efficiently and joyfully as compared to a tired brain.

The Connection Between Sleep & Physical Growth

Can sleeping less have an impact on actual physical growth of a child too? According to medical science, yes! A child’s growth is quite a complex process that requires several hormones to work together to stimulate muscles, bones, etc. in the body. Lack of sleep stunts this process. Let’s dive into the chemicality of it:

Growth hormone - a protein secreted by the pituitary gland in the brain is a key player. Several factors affect its production including nutrition, stress, and exercise. Hence, for your child’s overall growth, sleep is a very important factor. This is because the growth hormone is mostly released during sleep in the night – particularly during a specific stage of sleep which is about an hour after we first fall asleep.

Any sleep disorder that disrupts this deep sleep, over a period of time, may disturb this hormone secretion process, which in turn, would affect physical growth, especially the growth of height in your child.

Impact on Hunger & Appetite - Lack of sleep also affects the balance of other hormones in the body. Medical reports reveal that sleep deprivation is linked to obesity and diabetes in adults. A similar association appears to exist in children too. Hormones that regulate hunger and appetite are affected, causing a child to overeat and have a preference for high-calorie carbohydrate foods.

How Much Sleep Does Your Child Need?

Babies (0-3 years) need at least 12-13 hours of sleep in a day. Sleep needs for the 3-7 year olds comes down to minimum 10-11 hours. The duration further goes down as children grow and it happens to be around 8.5 hours to 9 hours for adolescents aged 11-17 years.  They may also stop the afternoon naps. This is based on the general guidelines and, of course, sleep needs may be quite individual, with some children requiring slightly less or more than their peers.

How Can You Help Your Child Sleep Well?

We know it well that when a child has not slept enough, s/he is cranky, irritable and tired. Continuous lack of sleep will start impacting their growth too. These are some things that you can do to help your child get good quality sleep as often as possible -

  • Fix a ‘go to bed’ time. School-age children should be in bed by 8 to 9 p.m. (earlier for the youngest grades and kids who need a lot of sleep).
  • Work on a good bedtime routine to help them wind down and get a good deep sleep. This might be a bedtime story, bath or small soft conversation.
  • Make sure the room is quiet, cool and free from light to make it conducive to sleep.
  • Avoid keeping external distractions like TV/computer in your child's room. Watching them in bed will keep the mind too alert and not allow it to relax naturally.

Apart from the above, use a soft comfortable bed mattress and linen for a good sleep. If your child’s sleep pattern is disturbed, as may happen during vacations/outings, try to get it back on track right away. As we now know, it will be well worth the effort!

Hope this blog enriched you and now you’re in a good know-how of how to help your child meet the minimum daily sleep requirement.

Do drop a comment below in case your child isn’t able to sleep well for some reason and what measures from the above you’ve already tried.

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| Nov 27, 2018

My son is 4years old and have a nap in the afternoon for around 1-1. 5 hour and a 9 hour sleep at night. Is this routine fine or should he sleep continuously for 10-11hours?

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| Nov 27, 2018

Thanks for this information mam my 4 year kids troubles a lot while sleeping

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| Nov 27, 2018

hello madam tanx for information, my son is 5rs old he had sleep apnea bcs of enlarged adenoids he may not sleep properly during night time ,doctor said that he require adenoids surgery, by this he had ADHD problem ,he may not sit one place and not concentrated on studies. by this surgery he may over come this problem, and concentrate everything?

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