Children experience sleep problems just like adults. However, a child who isn’t sleeping well is more susceptible to getting sick and will have trouble paying attention in school. Not to mention the effect it has on how the rest of the family sleeps as well. And if there’s one thing that’s worse than a sleepy child, it’s an entire sleepy family.
Whether your child gets up in the middle of the night, sleep walks, has night terrors, or insomnia, we’ve got advice on how to cope.
Getting up during the night
Chances are, there will be certain things that work to soothe your child back to sleep – her own thumb, being rocked, being cuddled, a bottle, etc. The experts at the Baby Center say that the key is to ensure that whatever your child needs is something she can provide herself. If she requires you to sing to her, she’ll require that every time. So, it’s best to show her how to put herself back to sleep without your assistance. This means not taking her out of her crib or bed. And if she’s old enough to get out on her own, take her back to her bed and comfort her until she falls asleep. The episodes of waking up should diminish over time.
There’s no surefire way to stop a sleep walker, but, in addition to ensuring your child’s environment is safe in case she does sleep walk (childproof locks on doors and windows, gates in front of stairs, etc.) there are ways you can try to minimize the episodes. Promote relaxation in your child with soothing music and a quiet, cozy bedroom. Stick to a strict naptime and bedtime schedule. Withhold drinks (and caffeine) before bed time and be sure your child empties her bladder before bed. And, if necessary, make her bedtime earlier in case the problem is a case of excessive sleepiness.
As with sleep walking, there’s also no surefire way to prevent night terrors, and they also necessitate that safety precautions be taken since your child could get up and run around during a night terror. But according to world-renowned child expert Dr. Sears, the following has been shown to stop night terrors in 90 percent of children:
- For several nights, keep track of the time between falling asleep and the onset of the night terror.
- Then, wake your child up 15 minutes prior to the expected time of the episode and get her out of bed and fully awake for 5 minutes.
- Do this for seven consecutive nights.
- If the night terrors recur, repeat the seven nights of awakenings.
One of the main causes on insomnia in children is being overtired due to a bedtime that’s too late. Children between the ages of 6 and 12 need about 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night. If you’re sure that your child is in bed when she should be, other contributors to insomnia in children are caffeine, stress, sleep apnea, coughing from asthma, itching from eczema, depression, and side-effects from prescription drugs, like ADHD and anti-convulsant meds.
If these tips don’t help your child overcome her sleep issue, be sure to consult your pediatrician for the next steps to take.
Sources: babycenter.com, kidshealth.org, askdrsears.com, and pediatrics.about.com