When a child consistently doesn’t get enough sleep over an extended period of time, it becomes sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation in children can have many negative effects and consequences.

Studies and findings on child sleep deprivation:

A) The effects of sleep deprivation on a child’s behavior

During brain scans, sleep-deprived people show increased activity in the amygdala and decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex area of their brain. (Lite, 2010) In layman’s terms, this equates to more emotional reactiveness combined with less reasoning and impulse control.

B) Sleep deprivation affects academic performance and a child’s ability to learn

One study found that elementary-school students who missed just one hour of sleep for 3 nights in a row performed two years below their actual grade level on academic tests. (Stephens, 2013)

C) Sleep deprivation can impact a child’s intelligence score

Another study by the University of Virginia found that children who don’t get enough sleep can experience a drop in IQ points comparable to that of a child with lead poisoning. (ibid)

D) Sleep deprivation and a child’s mental health

Teens whose parents allowed them to go to bed at midnight or later got an average of only 7 ½ hours of sleep a day, whereas those with bedtimes of 10 p.m. or earlier got an average of 8 hours and 10 minutes of sleep. This 40 minute a night difference seemed to translate into more psychological problems. Those with the later bedtimes had 24% higher rates of depression, and were also 20% more likely to have suicidal thoughts, according to the study in the January 2010 issues of the journal sleep. (Lite, 2010; Painter, 2010)

E) The long-term effects of sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation in children can affect the brain’s plasticity at critical stages in their development, creating changes in synapses and neural pathways. If sleep problems persist for many years, they can begin to impair a child’s ability to engage in tasks that require a higher level of thinking later in life. (Stephens, 2013)