Children need in between 9 and 12 hours of sleep a night to be ready for a new day and the challenges that come with it. Just like adults, when a child doesn’t get a sound night’s sleep, they are lethargic, have slower reaction times, and may not be as chipper as usual. If a child is having a hard time sleeping, it means that the parents aren’t getting a full night’s sleep either. This leaves everyone over tired, and not having a fun time together.
Working to solve sleep disturbances in children can bring a family closer together and help all involved get some much needed sleep. By first determining what the cause of the sleep problem is, a solution can be obtained.
The following are some of the most common sleep disturbances parents often deal with:
Many children resist sleeping, causing bedtime to become later and later. As a parent, helping to establish a regimented sleep routine early in infancy will encourage children to have healthy sleep habits. Children should be able to fall asleep on their own within 30 minutes. If this isn’t happening, it might be a good idea to take a look at your bedtime routine.
Set up a basic sleep routine at the same time each night. Watch child for the first signs of getting sleepy such as eye rubbing and yawning. Use that time as your starting point for a bedtime routine. Starting the sleep routine at this time catches them at the right time, before they get their second wind. Make the bedtime routine enjoyable by adding a special activity such as a story. This way it is something a child looks forward to. Making bedtime enjoyable helps a child fall asleep on their own, and stay asleep.
During the night children may wake due to needing to use the bathroom or because they are hungry or thirsty. When children are breastfeeding, co-sleeping, or are feeling stress, they are more likely to wake during the night. The problem is, many times children figure out if they wake during the night, the get extra soothing and comfort from parents, which may encourage them to wake for this purpose.
Following the same routine in soothing the child when they wake during the night will help them fall back asleep quickly. Try to keep lighting low when soothing a child during the night. Make sure to use soft tones, and give comfort during night waking, but keep contact short.
Separation anxiety is common in children under the age of 3. Bedtime may cause anxiety in children at the thought of being away from their parents. By introducing a comfort item such as a blanket or stuffed animal, it may assist with easing separation anxiety. Allowing a child to cry out their frustration and anxiety is challenging to parents, but by not comforting a child each time they cry out, a child will learn to self soothe. A comfort item may become a helpful part of a child’s self-soothing.
Nightmares are frightening dreams, which leave a child feeling anxious that something bad may happen to them. Changes in a child’s routine or something stressful in a child’s life may add to potential sleep disturbances such as nightmares. It may take a child longer to fall asleep after a nightmare or cause them to delay going to bed for fear of having another nightmare. Just as with adults, nightmares can shake up a child and wake them up feeling confused and disorientated.
Comfort a child after a nightmare and reassure them everything is okay. By asking a child to recount a nightmare, or finding a way to help them relax, such as a song or gentle massage, will help a child fall back asleep. Sometimes a child may request a parent to stay with them until they sleep again. Encourage children to try sleeping on their own first before getting into bed with them.
Snoring and Teeth Grinding
Children may wake themselves from sleep due to snoring or teeth grinding. Congestion can add to difficulties breathing clearly, causing children to wake during the night. If a child has allergies or a constant cold, talking with a doctor may be helpful in easing congestion and solving sleep disturbances.
Children may start grinding their teeth when their teeth are coming in. This is common in children, and is something that can continue into adulthood. Talk with a dentist to discuss solutions to childhood teeth grinding.
Be diligent and remember not to give up. Sleep solutions don’t happen overnight, and it may take a couple days, weeks, or months before everyone is getting a full night’s sleep again. Remember to remain patient and caring, which will help everyone work through sleep issues smoothly.