Sleep Problems in Children
Sleep problems are very common among children during the first few years of life. Problems may include a reluctance to go to sleep, waking up in the middle of the night, nightmares, and sleepwalking. In older children, bed-wetting can also become a challenge.
Children vary in the amount of sleep they need and the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. How easily they wake up and how quickly they can resettle are also different for each child. It is important, however, that as a parent you help your child develop good sleep habits at an early age. The good news is that most sleep problems can be solved.
1. Try to keep him/her as calm and quiet as possible. When feeding or changing your baby during the night, avoid stimulating him/her too much.
2. Don't let your infant sleep as long during the day.
3. Put your baby into the crib at the first signs of drowsiness. Ideally it is best to let the baby learn to relax herself to sleep. If you make a habit of holding or rocking him/her until they fall asleep, h/she may learn to need you to get back to sleep when h/she wakes up in the middle of the night.
4. Avoid putting your baby to bed with a pacifier. Your baby may get used to falling asleep with it and have trouble learning to fall asleep without it. Pacifiers should be used to satisfy the baby's need to suck, not help a baby sleep.
5. Begin to delay your reaction to infant fussing at 4 to 6 months of age. Wait a few minutes before you go in to check a crying baby. They will probably settle themselves and fall back to sleep in a few minutes anyway. If baby continues to cry, check on him/her, but avoid turning on the light, playing, picking up, or rocking them. If crying continues or begins to sound frantic, wait a few more minutes and then recheck the baby. Once your baby realizes that you are not going to run in and comfort them, they will begin to fuss less and simply return to sleep. This is an important time for new parents to support each other in learning to be patient.
Toddlers and preschoolers
Following are some tips to help your toddler develop good sleep habits:
1. Make sure there is a quiet period before your child goes to bed. Establishing a pleasant routine that may include reading, singing, or a warm bath. A regular routine will help your child understand that it will soon be time to go to sleep. If parents work late hours, it may be tempting to play with their child before bedtime. However, active play just before bedtime may leave the child excited and unable to sleep. Limit television viewing and video game play before bed.
2. Try to set a consistent schedule for your child and make bedtime the same time every night. The consistency is important.
3. Allow your child to take a favorite teddy bear, toy, or special blanket to bed each night. Such comforting objects often help children fall asleep–especially if they awaken during the middle of the night.
4. Avoid letting your child sleep with you. This will only make it harder for them to learn to settle down and fall asleep when they are alone.
5. Try not to return to your child's room every time h/she
complains or calls out. A child will quickly learn to take
advantage of your "caring" if you always give in to
their requests at bedtime. When your child calls out, try the
Common sleep problems
For a young child, many things can interrupt a good night's sleep. As a parent, you may be able to prevent some of them.
How to handle nightmares:
Night terrors may last for as long as 45 minutes, but are usually much shorter. Children seem to fall right back to sleep after a night terror, but they actually have not been awake. Like nightmares, night terrors may occur more often in times of stress or may relate to difficult feelings or fears. However, unlike a nightmare, a child does not remember a night terror.
How to handle night terrors:
Keep in mind that night terrors do not always indicate serious problems. Your child will be more likely to have night terrors when they are overly tired and during periods of stress. Try to keep your child on a regular sleep schedule or increase the amount of sleep to prevent night terrors. Night terrors usually disappear by the time a child reaches grade school.
Sleepwalking and sleep talking
How to handle sleepwalking and sleep talking:
Sleepwalking and sleep talking are more likely to occur when your child is overly tired or under stress. Keeping your child's sleep schedule regular may help prevent sleepwalking and sleep talking.
Bed-wetting (also called enuresis)
Nighttime bed-wetting is normal and very common among preschoolers. It affects about 40% of 3 year olds and may run in families. The most common reasons your child may wet the bed include the following:
How to handle bed-wetting:
Most importantly, don't pressure your child. Bed-wetting is usually beyond a child's control and they may only become sad or frustrated if they cannot stop. Set a "no-teasing" rule in the family. Make sure your child understands that bed-wetting will get better in time.
It is also common for children to grind their teeth during the night. Though it produces an unpleasant sound, it is usually not harmful to your young child's teeth. It may be related to tension and anxiety and usually disappears in a short while.
Give it Time
Handling your child's sleep problems may be a challenge and it is normal to become upset at times when a child keeps you awake at night. Try to be understanding. A negative response by a parent can sometimes make a sleep problem worse, especially if it is associated with a stressful situation like divorce, a new sibling, a tragedy in the family, problems at school, or some other recent change in your child's life.
If the problem persists, there may be a physical or emotional reason that your child cannot sleep. Keep in mind that most sleep problems are very common, and with time and your help, your child and you will overcome them.