While many children grow out of sleeplessness, there are plenty of kids that carry the burden with them into adulthood. A study published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research shows a connection between childhood sleeplessness and adult alcoholism and drug abuse. This is yet another reason to encourage healthy sleep habits for your kids.
If your child is having trouble sleeping, he may be at risk for a much more serious condition in adulthood: addiction. Speaking of the aforementioned study, Andrew Spanswick, MSW and CEO of KLEAN Treatment Center, says, "[I]t was found that those who experienced sleep problems as children were more than twice as likely to use marijuana or alcohol at an earlier age. Obviously, this greatly increases the likelihood that full-blown addiction or alcoholism may result."
Parents play an important role in monitoring their child's sleep patterns and intervening if needed. This could mean seeking professional help.
Maybe you've never made the connection between childhood sleep patterns and a healthy lifestyle as an adult, but it actually makes perfect sense. "One of the chief complaints of my patients who are suffering from alcoholism or addiction is that they have severe problems sleeping," says Spanswick. "[M]any claim that they use drugs or alcohol solely to solve their sleep problems and quell the anxieties they feel around the subject."
There are many factors that contribute to adulthood addiction and many of them are related to childhood experiences. Sleep patterns can now be included in that list.
Now that you know the dangerous impact a lack of sleep can have on the long term health of your kids, you may be able to change the trajectory of their lives by teaching healthy habits. "[S]it your kids down and teach them about the importance of proper sleep hygiene," says Spanswick. "It is a great idea to set a sleep schedule for your kids. This trains their body from an early age when it's time to sleep and when it's not. Parents can also encourage their children to engage in relaxing activities before bed, avoiding high energy situations if possible." Exercise a bit of diligence now when it comes to your child's sleep habits and your effort will pay off down the road.
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