Children with sleep problems seldom share the burden alone. Perhaps your little one has trouble falling asleep or doesn’t dare be left in the dark. Maybe they suffer from nightmares or talk in their sleep. Whatever the case, they demand a lot of attention and keep the rest of the family awake. The root of the problem is often found in the home. Diet, exercise and what they do in their spare time such as play video games or watch to much television all play an important role in your childs sleep patterns.
Why children have sleep problems
Most experts agree that sleep problems are part of a child’s normal development. At a certain point, they decide they don’t want to go to bed when you tell them to. That’s just part of forming a personality of their own. A small step towards greater independence. And perhaps a way to get a bit more of your attention.
Ignore and be consistent
As such, there’s nothing unusual about this kind of defiance. It’s a temporary phase every child goes through, and usually passes. At least, it does if you deal with it in the right way. It’s all too easy to prolong the problem, or even worsen it, by ‘rewarding’ the bedtime protests and crying with more attention. The best way to handle behaviour like this is to ignore it and to be clear and consistent about when your child goes to bed.
Fear and stress
But there may be other reasons why your child has difficulty sleeping. Stress and fear, for example. Perhaps they associate their bedroom with punishment, because that’s where you send them when they’re naughty. Or maybe they have nightmares because of something ‘scary’ they’re experiencing but don’t really understand. A divorce is a good example of this. Fortunately, this kind of upset usually passes. And it can certainly help to talk to your child frankly, and so try to dispel their fears. What’s possibly most important, though, is that they don’t pick up on the worries, anger or irritation you may be feeling. Anger, especially, can be very confusing for a child – and it’s easy for your concern about upsetting them to end up as ‘negative’ attention.
Be particularly alert to persistent sleep problems, or to more serious ones like falling asleep at school. Or if they start disrupting the whole fabric of your family life. In such cases, you should consider calling in professional help.
Another possible cause of sleep problems is an underlying medical condition – something like snoring, sleep apnoea, eczema or an allergy. If you suspect that one of these is affecting your child, your GP is the best person to deal with it.
Five tips to help your child sleep well
Most sleep problems in children are fairly easily resolved. Here are our tips:
Arrange a treatment for me
- Give your child a chance to wind down before going to bed. So put away the active games and switch off the computer well before bedtime.
- Stick to a fixed bedtime and tell your child when it’s almost time for bed.
- Create a nightly bedtime ritual. That gives your child a sense of security.
- Just before putting your child to bed, look back with them at what you’ve done today.
- Don’t send your child to their bedroom as punishment. That makes it a ‘bad’ place.
Last updated on July 14, 2016.
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