It’s estimated that a quarter of young children have severe, long and short term sleep problems. A prolonged sleep disorder can have a profound impact on a child’s development. Studies have shown that kids who are sleep deprived don’t perform well in school, exhibit behavioural problems and are more susceptible to illnesses.
As a parent, there are simple things that you can do to help your child get a better night of sleep. Read on for more information on the symptoms of common sleep problems in children and the treatment options available.
New parents are often very concerned about how much bedtime their baby is getting. Newborn infants have irregular bedtime cycles and sleep an average of 16 to 17 hours per day. However, they may only not stay awake for 1 or 2 hours at a time.
As children get older, the total number of hours they need for not to stay awake decreases. A pre-school child may still need to sleep 10 to 12 hours each day, whereas a school aged child sleeps about 10 hours each day. It is important to remember that each child’s sleeping pattern will be different.
It is well known that a child who has a sleep problem will also develop behavioural and attention problems in school. A recent study reported that 37% of school aged children experience significant, nocturnal sleeping issues. Problems may include a reluctance to go to bed, disrupted sleep, nightmares and sleepwalking.
In older children, bedwetting can also become a challenge. Such problems are also common in kids with ADHD. It is important to try and figure out if these issues, especially if your child has difficulty falling asleep, are a side effect of any ADHD medication he or she might be taking.
Sleep problems in children can no doubt be thwarted if a regular bedtime schedule is followed to ensure that your child gets enough rest. Start by establishing a quiet time before bed. This is a good time to take a bath and read a story. By winding down, your child will be able to fall asleep quicker.
Once the body adjusts to a set schedule, he or she is more likely to be sleepy at the same time every night. If your child suffers from night terrors or nightmares, then make him more comfortable by turning on a night light in the room and allowing him to sleep with a favourite toy. Physical comfort, such as a firm sleep foundation is also important to a good night of sleep, as well as roomy and cosy pyjamas.
Kids learn from example, so follow a regular bedtime ritual yourself. If your child’s symptoms persist, then consider seeing a bedtime specialist. Sometimes sleep problems in children can be caused by depression or other anxiety disorders.
However, remember that each child is different. If they’re energetic and active during the day, then don’t worry if they’re having occasional sleepless nights.