Free Newsletters About Parenting!

Enter your Email

Can Sleep Deprivation Cause Mood Swings

Eight important mood changers 

Now that we've got a nodding acquaintance with dopamine, serotonin, adrenaline, and cortisol, let's have a look at how we can use them to help bright kids improve their mood.
Can Sleep Deprivation Cause Mood Swings

Mood changer #1: Sleep 

Bright kids need plenty of sleep. It means you get some time off, it means they learn better at school, and it means they are easier to live with! Need more convincing? The amount of sleep that is ideal is nine and a quarter hours per night.

Surveys of bright kids indicate they do not get enough sleep. Access to mobile phones, computers, and televisions in bedrooms are all enemies of sleep. Keep electronics out of bedrooms.

Many bright kids are overstimulated in the evenings and find it difficult to settle. The production of the sleep chemical, melatonin, is stopped if you are exposed to bright lights. In order to help children to sleep well, lower the lighting of an evening in your home or use indirect lighting such as lamps.

The quality of sleep of many bright kids is also a concern. Some seem to want to pile on the blankets to the point of almost cooking themselves. Once they have fallen asleep, check that they are not too hot or too cool.

Sleep is also important for learning. Memory consolidation occurs while we are asleep and is thought to be associated with dream or REM ("rapid eye movement") sleep. During the normal eight or nine hours of sleep, five REM cycles occur. If a bright kid is getting only five or six hours of sleep, she loses the last two REM cycles, and thereby reduces the amount of time the brain has to consolidate information into long-term storage.
The amount of sleep we get directly relates to how much serotonin we have and how vulnerable to stress we are. If getting enough sleep is a problem, then having a daytime nap is useful. Having a nap can be just as effective in promoting learning and memory as a full night's sleep. This is certainly the case if you can have a 90-minute nap, but even 60 minutes will do if you dream in that time. The effect of a nap is similar to going to bed early, which has also been shown to enhance learning.

Some tips for making sure they get a good night's sleep
  • No caffeine after 4 p.m. (that includes soft drinks and energy drinks with lots of caffeine).
  • No vigorous exercise in the two hours before sleep time.
  • If they report feeling tired in the evening, it is a good idea to ask them to go to bed. If they push through that tiredness, they won't have another sleep wave for another 90 minutes. 
  • Keep televisions, mobile phones, and computers out of bedrooms. 
  • Remember, there is no such thing as a sleep bank. Just because they slept 10 hours last night doesn't mean they can cope with only six tonight. 
  • Make sure they don't get overheated in bed. 
  • Don't get too stressed if they are unable to sleep. Just having them lie quietly in a darkened room is rejuvenating. 
Know your downtime
The time when you learn least well and the time you could use a power nap are roughly the same. To work out your downtime, take the mid-point of your sleeping pattern, go forward 12 hours, and that's the time. So if you sleep from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., the mid-point of your sleep is 2:30 a.m., which means that around 2:30 p.m. is your most likely downtime. In fact, surveys in schools indicate that 2:30 p.m. is the most common downtime for late childhood and adolescence.

Knowing your child's likely downtime is pretty handy. There is little point saying to a child who is having her downtime, "Have you got any homework?" It's also useful to know your own downtime. If you are having your downtime and they are having theirs, and you decide to have a discussion about a
difficult issue, you are wasting your time. It would be better to go for a walk or do something different. Downtime lasts about half an hour either side of the time you've worked out.

It's also important for parents of bright kids to get enough sleep. Bright kids often live life in the fast lane, awaken rewed up and ready to go, and don't slow down till late in the evening. It's easy to become sleep-deprived when parenting at the best of times. Sleep deprivation makes us all more vulnerable to stress, more easily rattled, and crankier. Work out a strategy to get the amount of sleep you need. To find out more, you can check out Can Sleep Deprivation Cause Mood Swings.