Having a child with sleep problems can be a very disruptive because both the child and parents suffer. By changing a few aspects of your home life you can look forward to both you and your child having a good night’s sleep!
As a parent, it’s very tempting to lie down next to an infant or toddler as they drop off to sleep. Unfortunately, this well-intentioned habit can cause problems because it creates an association in the child between sleep and parent.
It can be unsettling for the child to wake up and find that their parent is no longer beside them. Without the comfort, warmth and smell of the parent next to them they may have difficulty getting back to sleep and begin to cry. This can happen many times during the night and cause problems for both parent and child.
The key to finding a solution to the problem is minimizing the amount of times that the child wakes up during the night. This means finding the natural bedtime for the child and sticking to it. Rather that choosing an arbitrary time to put the child to bed, you should always tuck them in when they start to feel drowsy. This may not be easy if they are used to staying up later so you can expect a little protesting and crying. If they do cry, don’t leave them to cry themselves to sleep, instead stay with them and talk, sing a lullaby or read a story. After time, a habit will form and the amount of time you have to stay with the child will become less and less.
Snacks and drinks that are consumed late in the evening can create difficulties for your child with regards to getting to sleep. Food in general has to be digested and if the body is working hard digesting food, it cannot relax and fall asleep. Chocolate and many soft drinks, such as coke, contain the stimulant caffeine and should be avoided after midday. Many food, candy and drink products contain artificial colors and flavors which some studies have shown to cause hyperactivity in children.
Care should be taken over the media that a child is exposed to. A TV program, book or video game can have a long lasting effect on a child, sometimes years, and cause difficulties getting to sleep and nightmares. If a child is suffering from insomnia because of disturbing media then you can help by spending a little more time with them at bedtime. A child will tend to exaggerate what they have seen and fill in any gaps with irrational thoughts. You can help by rationalizing those gaps and talking to them about their fears.
Many teens have difficulty getting to sleep due to the proliferation of distractions in the bedroom; TVs, stereos, laptops and game stations all serve to tempt the teen away from the main function of the bedroom – sleeping.
If distractions are not the issue, the problem may be that they are sleeping-in for too long at the weekend. This disrupts the body clock and makes it hard for them to get to sleep at the normal time on school days. Try waking them up at a time that is just a little later than a school day and make sure they are exposed to plenty of sunlight throughout the day.
Category: Sleep Disorders