Sleep Issues In Young Children

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Common Sleep Problems in Younger Children

Most parents are aware of the importance of sleep for their child, but are not always clear about how much sleep is enough. They are also often confronted with common sleep problems which they may not be aware are not normal and need to be dealt with, or they know there is a problem but are not sure what to do.

How Much Sleep Does a Child Need?

A school-aged child generally needs ten to eleven hours per night. However, as they get older, get more homework, and engage in more recreational activities, their sleep can start to suffer.

Even mild sleep deprivation and disruption of sleep can cause serious issues. Studies have shown that those countries which practice daylight savings time note more accidents during the dates when the clocks change, especially when the clocks are set forward one hour and people therefore lose an hour of sleep.

A lack of sleep can cause:

* Accidents and injuries

* Behavioral problems

* Mood disorders, such as stress, irritability, depression and anxiety

* Memory, concentration, and learning problems, often described as a “brain fog”

* Slower reaction times, such as when playing sports, or when adults are driving

* Overeating and binge eating

* Gaining weight, mainly due to the lack of sleep affecting the hormones that impact metabolism and weight loss

If your child is showing any of these symptoms, it might be time to tighten up on your daily and nightly routines.

Other Issues to Watch Out For

Sometimes underlying health issues can result in sleep disorders. If you have noticed any of these in your child, it might be time to follow up with a pediatrician:

* Snoring

* Breathing pauses during sleep, gasping sounds or wheezing sounds

* Trouble falling asleep, even though you know they have been up for hours and have to be tired

* Problems with sleeping all the way through the night

* Trouble staying awake during the day, nodding off a lot in the car and/or at home

* Unusual events during sleep, such as sleepwalking or nightmares

* Night terrors, a reluctance to go to bed

* Bedwetting, which can disturb sleep and be very upsetting

* Getting up in the night for various reasons, such as the toilet

Snoring and respiratory issues could be a sign of a more serious condition known as sleep apnea, in which the upper airway gets cut off and the person literally wakes up for microseconds at a time in order to gasp for breath. Over time this can lead to both seriously disrupted sleep and oxygen deprivation.

Mood disorders can usually be handled safely without medication. Stress relief techniques, meditation and visualization of a “happy place” can all help.

Nightmares can lead to night terrors, a fear of falling asleep. Parents being on the same page about regular bedtimes and what to do if a nightmare occurs can help. So too can limiting anything the child finds “scary”.

Practical Steps

1. Establish a regular time for bed each night, seven nights a week.

2. Establish a regular wake-up time seven days a week.

3. Organize a relaxing bedtime routine, such as bath, pajamas and a story, to signal the end of the day.

4. Do not allow electronics in any bedroom (including your own).

5. Limit liquids three hours before bedtime, and avoid stimulants like caffeine and chocolate.

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