Common Children’s Sleep Issues and How to Address Them
By Mylee Zschech from Little Big Dreamers
Children’s Sleep: Common Issues and How to Solve Them.
As parents, not getting enough sleep can, not only be frustrating but can also make us feel depressed and struggle to cope day to day. Ensuring that our children get enough uninterrupted sleep is important for them too. It promotes growth and learning, helps fight illness and prevents abnormal weight gain. Children who have parents who prioritize, encourage, and teach healthy sleep habits are more likely to understand just how important healthy sleep. They will learn how good their bodies feel when they are well rested and continue to make good sleep choices as they grow older.
There are some common children’s sleep issues that may arise for children and knowing the best way to address them will set your child on the road to sleep success.
There are several reasons why children may experience night wakings. If a child’s bedtime is too late or if they are overtired they can start waking overnight. Have a look at your child’s sleep schedule and see if they are missing out on sleep somewhere. A typical bedtime for a child under 8 is between 6pm and 8 pm. The exact time will be dependent on your child and whether they still nap. You can look at your child’s behavior around the 4 or 5 pm mark to determine the most appropriate bedtime. If they seem to be struggling, then make the bedtime on the earlier side. If they are overtired and have been for some time, you may even need to consider a super early bedtime for a few days to help them catch up on lost sleep.
Night waking can also be because of a child’s inability to soothe themselves to sleep, which causes them to struggle to soothe themselves back to sleep at normal brief awakenings overnight. If this is the case, it is time to help your child learn to fall asleep and return to sleep on their own. That way they can make the transition back to sleep without needing assistance in some way. Decide how you want to teach them to self-soothe (e.g. cold turkey or gradually removing your presence) and be consistent as you do so.
Much like night wakings, early rising can be caused by lots of different issues. Firstly, you need to consider whether your child has always risen early or if it is a new thing. If they have always been an early riser, and wake up happy and well rested, then chances are it is just the way they are. If early rising is a new issue then it is best to consider a few different aspects of your child’s sleep schedule to work out what might be contributing to the early rising. Is bedtime too late or is your child overtired? Early rising can be attributed to both, just like night wakings.
The bedroom environment can also contribute to early rising. If there is even a little bit of light seeping into the room from the edges of the blackout blinds, this can affect children. Children are very sensitive to light, and if they wake briefly and see the light coming through, then this may wake them up to full alertness.
To combat the early wakings there are a few things you can do, depending on the reason you have identified: put up blackout blinds with total coverage, move bedtime to get your child better rested, don’t allow your child to get up until an appropriate hour of the morning (think 6 or 7 am) and use an ok to wake clock to signal an appropriate wake up time. No matter the reason it is important to always leave them in bed until an appropriate time of the morning. This will give them the opportunity to learn to fall back asleep. If you always let them start their day too early especially with fun things like TV or morning snuggles then they will keep waking up early to get them as well.
Children can be great procrastinators when it comes to bedtime. They can be the masters of stalling tactics like one more kiss, another pee in the toilet or needing another drink. They often know which things their parents will always respond to and use this to delay bedtime. It can be hard to deny another toilet trip when we worry about bedwetting later in the night! Often though these curtain calls are not actual needs but a way to get their mom or dad back in the bedroom. One way to handle this is to provide a pass card. Let your child know that they can hand that pass card in only once at night after bedtime and any other requests will be ignored and denied. Your child will begin to learn to use this card wisely, for something that is a true need.
Climbing out of bed
At some point, most parents will have to deal with their child getting out of bed at night. Whether it be because they want to know what their parents do once they are in bed or they want to try and join their parents in bed. To address climbing out of bed you can first draw up some sleep rules on a poster with your child that they can hang up in their room. The rules can include things like 1) they must stay in bed, 2) be quiet and focus on trying to fall asleep, 3) only get up when mommy and daddy come in the morning, etc. This works well when paired with returning them to their bedroom “zombie” like if they do get up. Some parents worry about their ability to be consistent with the zombie-like return to the bedroom in the middle of the night so choose to have a lock or gate, but this isn’t for everyone.
If you feel you need more one on one sleep help with your child’s sleep, please do not hesitate to reach out to Mylee Zschech from Little Big Dreamers. I combine my knowledge of the science of sleep with my social work experience to develop family-centered sleep plans that will help you improve your children’s sleep and help the whole family get the sleep they need. I offer sleep packages to suit all needs and budgets. I enjoy helping families get the sleep they need.
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