A little girl, who appears restless in bed due to sleep loss.

Sleep loss can affect your child’s emotional state, leading to disorders like insomnia and anxiety.

Parents constantly worry about their child’s development. They stress over their child’s health, as well as their emotional state of being. However, what if their health and emotions were tied together? One study suggests that sleep loss in children increases their risk for emotional disorders.

Emotional Disorders

Scientists for the University of Houston recently revealed the long-term effects of sleep loss. Without an adequate amount of sleep, children are at risk for developing depression and anxiety as they grow up. These are serious conditions that can have severe consequences down the line.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 1 out of 20 Americans, 12 years of age and older, reported current depression in 2009–2012. Depression comes with a variety of emotional symptoms. This includes a loss of appetite, loss of interest, sadness and hopelessness, insomnia, and thoughts of death or suicide.

While occasional anxiety is common among people, conditions such as general anxiety, panic, and social anxiety disorder can deeply affect one’s quality of life. Symptoms of this condition can affect the way people operate within the world around them, as they are in constant fear. Intense worry, attacks of fear, and an inability to interact with others, are just some of the issues people with anxiety have to deal with on a daily basis.

How Sleep Loss Affects Children Emotionally

Candice Alfano, a clinical psychologist and associate psychology professor at the University of Houston, says that the study’s purpose was to determine “how children appraise, express, regulate and later recall emotional experiences, both when sleep is adequate and when it is inadequate.”

The study tested 50 children, between the ages of 7 to 11, by restricting their sleep. They found that the children not only began to show sign of negative emotions, but were less impacted by positive experiences. Sleep loss seemed to have affected how they view things emotionally, putting a negative veil over everything they did, and making activities less exciting.

In the end, Alfano suggested that “Continually experiencing inadequate sleep can eventually lead to depression, anxiety and other types of emotional problems. Parents, therefore, need to think about sleep as an essential component of overall health in the same way they do nutrition, dental hygiene and physical activity. If your child has problems waking up in the morning or is sleepy during the day, then their nighttime sleep is probably inadequate. This can result for several reasons, such as a bedtime that is too late, non-restful sleep during the night, or an inconsistent sleep schedule.”