A rested child is a happier one.

Does Lack of Sleep Affect a Child's Behavior?

by Laura Agadoni

You know how you feel when you didn’t get enough sleep? Probably pretty groggy and maybe a little cranky — like wanting to smack the TV news anchors for being so darn bubbly this early in the morning. Well, you can make yourself a nice cup of java if you like, but what’s your toddler who didn’t get enough sleep going to do? He’s probably not going to feel so good himself. Your child deserves to feel his best, and you can help by ensuring he gets a good night’s sleep.


A tired toddler’s behavior can manifest in ways other than the child being tired the next day. Some toddlers who don’t get enough sleep become hyperactive, disagreeable and exhibit extremes in behavior, according to KidsHealth. In fact, it’s not unusual for a child to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder when he really only is suffering from lack of sleep, according to MedlinePlus.

More Problems

Lack of sleep can affect a child’s ability to learn and can make it more difficult for him to manage his anger, according to “Scholastic” magazine. A tired child cannot focus well, even in preschool class, as his more-rested peers can. He might also display an explosive temper, a lack of patience and tend to have hurt feelings. Have you noticed your child talks more to you or is the one your tot's teacher reports as constantly needing attention? This could be from lack of sleep. Your tired child is trying to stimulate himself to gain better focus.

Injury Prone

A tired tot is more likely to be injured. Preschoolers, even if they don’t nap anymore, still need some down time. “Scholastic” magazine reported that preschoolers who were active for eight to nine hours straight without a nap or scheduled rest time were 86 percent more likely to injure themselves and end up in the emergency room. If your toddler resists taking a nap, insist that he rests, at least. He can do quiet activities like looking at a picture book, coloring or doing a puzzle. During rest time, all electronics should be off, including the TV and computer. Some kids really do still need a nap and will often doze off during rest time.

How Much Sleep?

Toddlers, ages 1 to 3, need anywhere from 10 and 13 hour of sleep during the day and night hours. Preschool children need 10 to 12 hours of nighttime sleep. You’re wrong if you think that keeping your toddler up later at night or skipping naptime during the day will make him more tired and ensure a better night’s sleep. Once a toddler becomes overtired, he’ll have a more difficult time sleeping. The best way to ensure your child gets enough sleep is to establish regular nap and bedtimes and stick with them.

About the Author

Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.

Photo Credits

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