By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.
Children often have sleep problems during the first year of life, including trouble getting to sleep, waking up in the middle of the night and having irregular sleep patterns. Most childhood sleep disturbances occur only at certain ages, are temporary, and disappear as the child grows older. While annoying or frightening, they usually are not serious. In some cases, however, abnormal sleeping habits can be a sign of more serious problems requiring medical consultation.
Some of the common sleep problems are frequent awakening during the night, sleepwalking, talking in sleep, drowsiness during the day, waking up crying, having nightmares, bedwetting, teeth grinding and clenching and difficulty falling asleep. Older children and teenagers may find it hard to sleep if they are worried, drinking too much tea or coffee, are using illegal drugs or just get into the habit of going to sleep very late. After a while, they find that they can't get to sleep at an earlier time as their body's biological clock has been tempered. They must decide on regular times for going to bed and getting up, and stick to them.
Following are some of the corrective measures you can take for your child's sleep problems:
- If your child is having nightmares, you can help by encouraging your child to talk about the dream or draw a picture of it. This will help you to find out the cause of the upset and work out what help or support your child needs.
- Establish a relaxing routine before your child retires for bed, for instance, a warm bath, hot cup of milk, reading a story and so on.
- Limit television viewing and video game play before bed.
- Make sure that your child is comfortable. Check if he/she is comfortably dressed, the temperature of the room is right or whether he/she wants the nightlight on or off.
- If your child is walking in the sleep, make sure that you provide him/her enough love and support. Lock windows and doors and make sure the child does not sleep near stairways and potentially dangerous objects.
- Insist that your child follows a regular sleeping patter and does not have 'late nights'.
- For infants, feeding or rocking might help them go to sleep peacefully; however, as the child grows older, parents should encourage the child to sleep without feeding and rocking. Otherwise, the child will have a hard time going to sleep alone.
- Limit liquid intake for your child before bedtime and encourage the child to go to the bathroom before sleeping so as to avoid bedwetting problems.
If your child's sleep is continually disrupted and you lack initiative and energy during the day, you should seek professional help such as contact your pediatrician or directly seek consultation with a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center, http://www.startingadaycarecenter.com.