What are Child Sleep problems
Children, like many adults, sometimes have difficulty falling asleep. Sleep problems are a very common problem that parents face in today’s hectic lifestyle. Very often sleep problems become chronic and are cause for concern. We all know that sleep is essential for a child’s overall health and well-being and that it allows the body to rest and function at an optimal level the following day. Lack of sleep not only comprises the immune system, but is also believed to affect growth.
Types of Child Sleep Problems
There are various types of sleep problems that children may encounter and they include:
- Sleep deprivation
- Talking during sleep
- Frequent awakening during the night (night waking)
- Separation issues
- Waking up crying
- Sleep walking
- Nightmare or night terrors
- Night sweats
- Resistance to sleep
- Teeth grinding and clenching
- Waking early
Some sleep problems may disappear on their own, while others develop into more serious sleep disorders such as parasomnias, obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy, insomnia, sleep paralysis, snoring, and seasonal affective disorder if left untreated.
Diagnosing Child Sleep Problems
If your child is not getting sufficient sleep, he or she will display signs of fatigue, irritability, mood swings, and inability to concentrate and focus. Generally, children between the ages 5-12 years need between 10 and 11 hours of sleep a night. Teens aged 13-14 years need about 8 and 9 hours of sleep each night, while those 15 years and older need 8 hours of sleep.
Common sleep problems may simply require establishing good sleeping routines, and ensuring that your child feels safe and secure. However, if sleep problems worsen consult your pediatrician or doctor. A physical examination and medical history will be taken to rule out any underlying disorders. Your doctor may also refer your child to a sleep specialist to monitor his or her sleep patterns and determine the root of the problem.
What Causes Child Sleep Problems?
If you find yourself struggling to put your child to sleep or your child is waking often, these are some of the possible causes:
- Lack of a routine or formal bedtime ritual
- Separation anxiety
- Family problems
- Childhood depression or trauma
- Formula or food sensitivity
- Diet high in sugar or stimulants such as coffee and tea
- Airborne allergens
- Pain such as earache, or abdominal gas
- Discomfort such as being thirsty, hungry, hot, cold or a wet bed
- Intestinal worms
- Urinary tract infection
External factors such as noise, thirst, hunger, heat, or cold, a wet bed and even uncomfortable pajamas may keep your child awake at night.
Help for Child Sleep Problems
Treatment typically depends on the type of sleep problems. As children mature, they often overcome and outgrow sleep disorders. More serious sleep disorders require medical treatment. Night terrors very seldom require medical intervention, and in most cases, you simply have to make your child as comfortable as possible. Children often outgrow sleep walking, but it would be wise to implement safety precautions.
Treating nighttime bedwetting involves bladder control training, reinforcement and responsibility training, conditioning or medication. Anxiety that is brought on by having to go may be relieved by developing effective coping strategies such as reassurance, calming bedtime routines, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. In children with sleep apnea, their tonsils and adenoids removal may be an option, or they may be treated with nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).
A more natural and gentle alternative to allopathic medicine that helps to promote peaceful sleeping patterns in children is the use of herbal and homeopathic remedies. These remedies are non-addictive and safe, without any side effects. Herbs such as Matricaria recutita (Chamomilla) safely relax young children, while at the same promoting drowsiness. It also calms digestive upsets and colic, soothes teething toddlers and treats anxiety. Passiflora incarnata is a powerful herb used as a mild sedative and tranquilizer and is effective for colic symptoms. Homeopathic remedies such as Coffea C30 and Cina C30 are excellent in pacifying oversensitive, irritable children at bedtime. Children who tend to throw temper tantrums, toss and turn in their sleep, grind their teeth and have intestinal worms will also benefit from homeopathic formulations.
More Information for Child Sleep Problems
Tips for good sleep habits
Follow these tips to help cope with child sleep problems:
- Create a familiar routine for bedtime - feed, bath, cuddle, saying goodnight, a story or lullaby
- Interact with your child at bedtime in a loving, yet firm manner so that he or she becomes accustomed to the bedtime routine
- Establish a regular daily routine by maintaining the same waking time, meal time, nap time and play time for your baby or child. This makes going to bed easier and at the same time helps them to feel secure.
- Ensure that sleep routines used for your baby can be used anywhere, as this will enable your baby to sleep away from home
- Find your child’s ideal bedtime by observing in the evening when he or she is starting to wind down and tire
- Ensure that children are physically active throughout the day and get plenty of fresh air
- Dim the lights in the evening as bedtime approaches, and if possible, take them outside into the bright light in the morning – light signals the brain into the right sleep-awake cycle
- Avoid giving your child food, snacks or drinks that contain sugar and caffeine (chocolate, cola), as it disrupts the sleep cycle
- Provide a night light if your child does not like the dark
- Reduce your child’s TV watching to two hours during the day and none at bedtime
- If your child is frightened of the "monster in the closet" or of being left alone, promise to return and check on him or her
- Avoid sending your child to bed as a threat or punishment, as bedtime should be an enjoyable experience