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Should you let your child sleep in?

You and your kids are up-and-at-em all week long, so when it comes to weekends and holidays, should you let your children sleep in? Studies show that sleep deprivation in children can lead to a string of potential health problems, so before you rouse your kiddos early on a day off from school, discover the benefits of letting them indulge in some extra Zs.

Sleep deprivation in children

How much sleep the average youngster needs varies according to age:

  • Toddlers need 10 to 12 hours of sleep per night plus a one- to three-hour nap during the day
  • Grade school-aged kids and tweens need 10 to 12 hours of sleep per night
  • Teens need about nine to 10 hours of sleep per night

As family schedules get busier and kids are getting less sleep, children are falling victim to sleep deprivation. But, the good news is that recent studies have found that kids who are allowed to catch up on insufficient slumber — like letting kids sleep late on the weekends — were less shaken by the harmful effects of the busy school week. But, that doesn’t mean you have to let your child sleep in until noon all of the time.

While the dangers of sleep deprivation in children can be remedied by some extra time in dreamland, not letting your child sleep in could be hazardous to his health.

Even before your baby is born, your baby is affected by sleep. Find out how your own sleep deprivation can lead to preterm labor >>

Risk of obesity

In a recent study published in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers examined children’s weight and metabolic regulation based on varying sleep schedules. They found that youngsters who weren’t allowed to “catch up” on sleep on the weekends had poor metabolic function and were more likely to be obese. When you let your child sleep in, you can help your kiddo maintain a healthier body weight.

Delay in puberty

Published in the The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, a small study conducted by the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston concluded that lack of deep sleep in adolescents ages 10 to 15 could delay the onset of puberty. Researchers performed 14 studies on nine kiddos while they slept looking for increases in luteinizing hormone, which only increases at night during deep sleep. By compromising the amount of sleep your youngster gets, you may be interfering with the normal puberty process.

Learn to spot the physical and emotional changes during puberty >>

Development of behavioral problems

While some detrimental health effects of sleep deprivation in children are easy to see, some health hazards of not letting your kids sleep in may be mistaken for something entirely different. “Lack of sleep can cause a lot of stress and difficulty for a child,” warns Hannah Chow, pediatrician at Loyola University Health System. “Kids can have a hard time concentrating which causes problems in school. There can be physical complications, such as headaches, and it can even cause a child to have a more negative outlook on life.”

Whether your youngster seems well rested or has behavior driving you up the wall, the quickest remedy may be to let your child sleep in. “Sleep is the only time our brains have a break and are not being constantly bombarded by stimulation,” says Chow. “Our bodies need a chance to rest and recharge — this only comes with sleep. It’s important for parents to know how much sleep their child needs and then make sure they get it.” The best part? When kids are sleeping late on the weekends, you get to sleep in too!

Read more about sleep deprivation

ADHD or sleep deprived?
Dealing with sleep deprivation
Moms spill on how much they really sleep

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