Children's Stress & Sleep
Helping kids get a better night’s sleep sometimes starts with managing their anxiety. Children’s stress often goes unnoticed by parents, but one-fifth of kids ages eight to 17 say that they worry a great deal.
Chronic stress may lead to a number of issues, both psychological as well as physical, and one frequent side effect is worsened sleep. Children may have trouble falling or staying asleep, complain of nightmares, ask their parents to sleep in bed with them, or try to avoid going to bed altogether. Not only can anxiety lead to poor sleep, but the reverse is also true: Adolescents who sleep poorly tend to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Fortunately, both anxiety and related sleep problems can be resolved. Parents play a key role in helping kids manage stress. They can make sure that children know that they can approach them when worried, and should also keep an eye out for signs of anxiety. Beyond having trouble sleeping, these symptoms, below, may indicate that a child is stressed.
- Decreased appetite
- Upset stomach or abdominal pain
- Inability to relax
- Aggressiveness or stubbornness
- Inability to control emotions
- Unwillingness to engage in family or school activities
Family routines—such as family dinners or game nights—may help relieve children’s stress, as can spending calm, relaxing time together. Parents shouldn’t hesitate to ask a pediatrician or therapist for help managing their child’s stress if they feel overwhelmed by the responsibility or if their child’s symptoms don’t seem to be improving.