When my little ones were in preschool, it was a difficult transition for them. They went from having a uniform nap time and waking up whenever they wanted, to being forced to wake earlier, bed down earlier, and their naptime was now controlled by the classroom. For a long time they were irritable, anxious, and getting them into bed was a struggle. It turns out, they simply weren't getting enough sleep. I wish I'd known earlier, making life easier for all of us. But, what are some of the signs your preschooler needs more sleep?
Some of the signs are obvious, noted the Cleveland Clinic. If your child is impossible to wake in the mornings, if they're dozing at breakfast, or fast asleep as soon as school concludes, they might be suffering from a lack of sleep. Other symptoms are not nearly so in-your-face, and it can be easy for parents to overlook them. Ariel M. Dubelman, MD, a pediatrician with Children's Pediatricians and Associates, LLC, wrote for Children's National Health Network that on average, preschoolers need between 10 and 13 hours of sleep per night, but no less than eight and no more than 13. There is a balance that kids need to achieve, and it may require some toggling. But here's how you know it's time to make some shifts.
1. You Can't Drag Them Out Of Bed
We've all been there. Heck, I was there this morning. You go to wake up your little one, and they respond "five more minutes" or "I'm too tired to get up." Now very few people relish waking up in the morning, but if your child is constantly in the state of "can't get up," then it might be they're not achieving enough sleep at night, according to The Cleveland Clinic.
2. They're Cranky & Irritable In the Afternoon
The Akron Children's Hospital reported that kids who do not get enough sleep at night have a tendency to get cranky and irritable in the afternoon. My son is particularly vulnerable to this one. He turns into a different kid in the afternoon if he's not had enough sleep. It's truly night and day for him, and you can witness it happen in real time. It's like watching Bruce Banner Hulk out, and you're just waiting.
3. They're Wound Up
The storm before the silence. Is your child acting like they just drank six Red Bulls followed by eating a bucket of sugar and then taking a cold shower? They might be tired, according to the medical journal Sleep Science. That "wound up" or "hyper" behavior is really common when children need more sleep.
4. They Fall Asleep In The Car
I always loved it when my kids fell asleep in the car, and now I'm looking back on it thinking that maybe I missed something. I just thought it had to do with the lulling nature of the car, the soothing warmth and sounds, but it's more than that, according to Akron Children's Hospital. The website noted that kids who fall asleep on short car trips are likely sleep deprived.
5. They Still Need Regular Naps
My daughter's preschool teacher used to comment on how much my little one loved her naptime. She'd grab her favorite book Dragons Love Tacos, her fuzzy blanket, and then zonk out for 45 minutes every afternoon. They frequently had to wake her up from that nap, and apparently that was a warning sign that she wasn't getting enough sleep, according to the experts at Sleep Training Solutions.
6. Their Eating Habits Are Bad
Is your kid reaching for sugar or fast carbs more than anything else? Maybe they're eating more or refusing to eat at all? These can be symptoms of sleep deprivation, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The website wrote that kids who don't get enough sleep are at a greater risk for poor nutritional habits and obesity.
7. They're A Stage Five Clinger
Is your child on you like a barnacle? Do they try to follow you into the bathroom and are needier than normal? The Akron Children's Hospital suggested that unusual clinginess is a sign of sleep deprivation. So for both your sakes, it looks like you might need to put them to bed a hair earlier to prevent this level of cling.