Every night thousands of children lie their heads on the floor to sleep because they don’t have a bed.
Did you know that 1 in 5 children live in poverty in the US, and many of these families cannot afford beds? Children often have to share a small bed with their parents or siblings, sleep in a sleeping bag, or simply sleep on the floor.
Children are the highest age-based population in poverty in the US. Twenty-two percent of kids in America live below the poverty line—the highest percentage among developed countries. Child poverty affects children’s nutrition, self-perception, behavior, and more. But, with sleep being one of the most important things that human’s do, bed poverty, perhaps, takes one of the biggest tolls on poor children.
Sleep and Child Bed Poverty
As you can imagine, not having a bed leads to poor nights of sleep, lower sleep quality, and even sleep deprivation. This is especially harmful for children because, statistically, they need more hours of sleep per night than adults do; they need those hours to refresh their brain.
Childhood is a crucial time for learning, physical development, and retaining the information they are learning. Children that suffer from sleep deprivation have lower academic achievement due to lowered cognitive function.
According to a 2009 study, poor sleep affects children’s grades and academic performance and adversely affects behavior up to two years later.
Other effects of sleep deprivation include the following:
Lower immune system function: As you rest, your body produces proteins called cytokines which help fight infection and disease. Lack of sleep decreases and inhibits cytokine production.
Mood swings: When you lose sleep, your amygdala (AKA your center for emotions) becomes overactive while your prefrontal cortex (AKA your center for decision making) sees less action. This combination is a recipe for mood swings.
Lack of concentration: Sleep is one of the most important factors when it comes to prolonged concentration. This comes back to that pesky prefrontal cortex. When your prefrontal cortex doesn’t get a chance to recharge overnight, you can’t process your thoughts as easily or make decisions.
Memory impairment: Overnight, specifically during the REM cycle, your short-term memories are stored and turned into long-term memories. Without this process, the things you saw, heard, and learned throughout the day will be easily forgotten.
Hallucinations (in severe cases): One of the most common effects of sleep deprivation is having hallucinations. Sleep experts don’t know exactly why this happens, but they theorize it has something to do with the disruption of visual functioning. Most hallucinations are visual, but in extreme cases, they can be audible or tactile.
Clearly, this is not what we want for America’s children, so what can we do?