Behavioural sleep problems | Sorting out sleep problems | children sleeping

Behavioural sleep problems

In truth, behavioural sleep problems are far more common than medical ones.  Children aren’t born bad sleepers but they can be born a light sleeper which may be interpreted as a ‘bad’ sleeper,’ Blunden explains. ‘Sleep problems are hugely misunderstood and under diagnosed, yet manageable.
Blunden says toddlers need 12 to 14 hours sleep daily and primary school kids 10 to12. Research suggests without this sleep, children don’t function as well.  ‘They’re more irritable, aggressive, hyperactive, fidgety, and can’t concentrate or remember information, compromising learning. They get sick more and have an increased risk of accidents,’ Blunden says.

Any parent – or child who doesn’t want to sleep – can tell you there are many reasons for behavioural sleep problems such as, a child:

* not being able to fall asleep – because they don’t know how, don’t want to or are used to being put to sleep by parents
* being too excited or stimulated
* not wanting to sleep alone
* being sick, scared, anxious,
* feeling they are not spending enough time with their parents, which might be why they get up seeking attention.

Sorting out sleep problems

A conversation between parents and their child is usually a good place to start sorting out these problems.  Also making sure your child has a regular bedtime routine will help. A regular routine that includes dinner, bath, quiet time and bed seems to help children wind down and relax before bed. Children will usually settle better in a quiet and comfortable room.

Sleep experts recommend the following tips:

* Encourage your child to fall asleep on their own from age six months (put babies down when drowsy rather when already asleep)
* Use reward systems (star charts culminating in a lucky dip or favourite outing) to motivate preschool and school-age kids, especially if they are getting out of bed or coming into your bed at night.
* Talk to your child about any fears or anxieties that might be keeping them awake.
* Before bed, do relaxation, breathing or visualisation exercises (imagine a happy place they like such as the beach or park and help them ‘go there’).
* Install a hall or night light if your child is scared of the dark.
* Encourage relaxing activities such as reading, drawing, listening to quiet music in the hour before bed to help wind down.
* Turn off the television (keep TV out of the bedroom), computer, electronic games and other activities in the hour before bed.
* Avoid strenuous exercise in the few hours before bed but make sure your child gets plenty of exercise during the day.
* Ensure your child isn’t consuming caffeine and limit spicy or salty food which can cause thirsty children to wake.
* Get your child up at the same time every day.

If none of these tricks work, you should probably see a GP who can refer you to a medical specialist, sleep physician or psychologist to investigate why your child struggles with sleep and help you find a solution.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: