Light Sleepers vs. Deep Sleepers

By Angela Darland
Everyone needs a good night's sleep.
Everyone needs a good night's sleep.

When it comes to sleep, every individual is different, and children are no exception. If you have more than one child, you may have already discovered that what works for one does not work for the other and that you can't make any assumptions. Some children are deep sleepers, some are light sleepers. One baby wants to be rocked to sleep, while his sister prefers being put down and left alone. Getting them to sleep is one thing. Keeping them that way is another.

Brain Waves

Even as you sleep, your brain is still monitoring the environment. Your sense of smell and sound are at work. In order for you to stay asleep, rather than waking up every time the dog shifts position or a car drives by outside, your brain has to do something different. Time Magazine reports that you're able to sleep because your brain blocks the more common sounds in order to not disturb you. However, not all brains are as good at blocking, causing some people to rouse at the slightest sounds and some to sleep through a freight train, and many variations in between. Sensitivity to sounds while sleeping is a spectrum, with the lightest sleepers at one end and the deepest sleepers at the other.

Which is Better?

One isn't better than the other -- both have their upsides and their downsides. The struggles of having a child who is a light sleeper are obvious, if your child is up and down all night long, so are you. You need to find ways for your child to sleep so you can too. Having a child who sleeps deeply can have drawbacks of its own. According to the Enuresis Treatment Center, sleeping too deeply is the cause of 99 percent of all bed-wetting cases.

Light Sleepers

To help light sleepers tune out some of that distracting noise and get a better night's sleep, an article on suggests using white noise. White noise is noise that drones continuously, such as a fan, static over a radio or the sound of water burbling in an aquarium. You can even buy a sound machine that can be set to a variety of sounds, such as frogs croaking or waves crashing on the shore. Try making sure your child's room is a quiet one, preferably in a part of the house away from busy roads or noisy neighbors.

Some Kids Need More.

If your child is difficult to wake, he may be a deep sleeper or there may be something else going on. "Psychology Today" identifies young people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as needing more sleep than average. Kids with ADHD will easily sleep 12 hours if you don't wake them and often score "very sleepy" on daytime sleepiness tests.

Teenagers also may seem difficult to wake, but there is a very good reason for that. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens need more sleep -- about nine hours and fifteen minutes nightly -- but are unlikely to get that much because their biological sleep patterns shift several hours, making them unable to fall asleep until at least 11 p.m. This puts their need for sleep in conflict with most schools early start times, causing many teens to be sleep deprived. Lack of sleep can lead to many problems, such as depression, lowered grades, a lowered resistance to acne and illness, weight gain, aggressive behavior and a higher risk of driving accidents.

About the Author

Angela Darland has worked in the field of early childhood since 1998 as a certified Early Intervention Specialist, trainer, conference presenter and writer. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Texas A&M, an MBA from TWU and an endorsement as an Infant Mental Health Specialist from the Texas Association of Infant Mental Health.