Sleep issues in children can quickly disrupt any household. If your child doesn’t sleep well at night, they can have issues with concentration during the day. They can also have an increase in behavioral problems and moodiness. Furthermore, usually if your child doesn’t sleep well, you as the parent won’t sleep well either.
As humans, we all need sleep for daily rejuvenation. Developing children, especially, need sleep for healthy growth and lifestyles. In short, sleep matters. In fact, it matters a lot more than making sure you don’t feel grumpy in the morning. Sleep affects many realms of our health and development. This makes it paramount that parents ensure that their children get a restful amount of sleep as often as possible.
Staying healthy involves a person’s whole being. You can’t separate diet from exercise from sleep and only focus on one area. Each area affects the others. In this article, though, we focus specifically on making sure that your child sleeps well and ways you can help with that critical part of their development. Ultimately, we want to help parents as much as possible with staying on the offensive when it comes to their child’s sleep habits.
Indications of Possible Sleep Issues in Children
Sleep matters for children and adults alike, but we especially need to pay attention to the sleep patterns of our children. How well someone sleeps can make a large impact on many areas of life. Sleep can impact so many things including your feelings, your ability to learn or concentrate, and how you interact with others. Additionally, sleep deprivation can increase chances of weight gain, heart disease, and other health problems.
With all this in mind, parents need to know some of the possible indicators of sleep issues in children. With knowing the potential signs of sleep issues, parents can have tools to help resolve concerns before they become unmanageable. Let’s look at some of the primary causes of sleep issues in children.
Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
One of the largest indications of possible sleep issues in children is a condition known as excessive daytime sleepiness. With this condition, children feel fatigued or lethargic during the day and oftentimes simply don’t get enough sleep at night. This condition can be caused by brain or medical conditions, a concussion, or even simple disruptions in a child’s regular routine.
If you notice that your child feels or acts tired during the day on a consistent basis, excessive daytime sleepiness might be a contributing factor. This might point to not sleeping well at night or simply not getting restful sleep. In fact, some children do get a full night’s sleep but since the sleep isn’t restful or deep they still experience excessive daytime sleepiness.
If you see signs of excessive daytime sleepiness, you should talk to your pediatrician about possible resolutions. Studies have indicated that the condition might contribute to behavioral and conduct issues and impact performance at school. Before your child starts to have issues with school performance, though, you should try to find ways to limit daytime sleepiness as much as possible.
Another key indicator of sleep issues in children to pay attention to is snoring. We all associate snoring as an accepted part of sleep, but in children snoring might point to larger problems at hand. Many children and adults snore occasionally. A child, though, who snores on a consistent basis might have underlying issues affecting their overall sleep.
In general, snoring can appear as a symptom of a number of things from weight gain to seasonal allergies. If you notice your child snoring heavily or regularly, you might talk to your child’s pediatrician. Occasional snoring might not present issues especially if it results from short-term allergies or infections. Frequent occurrences might point, though, to enlarged tonsils or adenoids or even a case of sleep apnea.
Since snoring has to do with how your child breathes while they sleep, it can point to larger problems involving not breathing well which might also keep them from having restful sleep. The best path to follow is simply to consult with your pediatrician if you notice a regular pattern of snoring.
Sleepwalking or Nightmares
Thirdly, sleepwalking or nightmares can also point to sleep issues in children. Sleepwalking typically occurs more often in children than adults as most people eventually outgrow the behavior. Sometimes, it might come about naturally and not as a result of another sleep issue. For instance, if both parents had sleepwalking episodes as children, then their child might also sleep walk.
Other times, though, sleepwalking can occur or happen more frequently as a result of fatigue or irregular sleep schedules. Stress or sickness can also bring it about. As a result, parents just need to be extra aware if they notice sleepwalking in their children. While it doesn’t necessarily point to other sleep issues, in some instances it can be an indicator of other things impacting normal sleep.
Similarly, nightmares occur at different times for most children. Infrequent nightmares typically do not present any reason for concern. However, frequent nightmare episodes can lead to disrupted sleep patterns and issues with falling and staying asleep. If your child experiences frequent nightmares, you might try to identify the reason for the episodes. Stress, fatigue, or other factors might cause an increase in nightmares. With identifying any underlying causes, you can help to limit their impact on your child’s overall sleep behavior.
Addressing Sleep Issues in Children
If you identify a possible sleep issue in children in your household, you next want to find ways to start addressing it. Fortunately, many times parents can make slight adjustments to the environment or nightly routine to help encourage better sleep. Though every situation might be different, some general approaches might nevertheless provide some help. Let’s discuss some of the best home remedies for effectively addressing sleep issues in children.
Establish a Regular Sleep Routine
The first step for addressing potential sleep issues in children should involve establishing a regular sleep routine. Children, on the whole, need regular consistent schedules. Routines and schedules help reinforce healthy practices. Schedules provide boundaries and helpful structure in life. They also train our bodies to behave and react a certain way. When it comes to sleep, a sleep routine can help train your child’s body to start preparing for rest.
As part of preparing a sleep routine, you should consider such things as when your child last eats, stops watching TV, takes a bath, puts on their pajamas, brushes their teeth, and lays down. Each element of their nightly routine should occur at approximately the same time each night. Additionally, each element should build on the action before leading up to laying down and resting.
These physical cues can act as subtle indicators to your child’s mind and body to start slowing down for a restful night’s sleep. Having a regular sleep routine and sticking with it can possibly help resolve many sleep issues and can even help with things like ADHD management.
Pay Attention to Screen Time
Next, to supplement your child’s sleep routine, you need to make sure you pay attention to electronic usage and screen time close to bed. The younger your child is, the less time they should spend around screens to begin with. For anyone, though, child or adult, using electronic screens makes it difficult for our minds to shut off. As a result, screen time usage at night can prevent you from falling asleep or can delay sleep. For kids especially, studies have shown that screen time close to bed leads to less sleep and lower quality sleep overall.
To help create a space for sleep, you should make sure your children start turning off electronics early. Ideally, they wouldn’t use electronics of any kind in the hour to two hours before bed. At a minimum, though, you should make sure that the screens go off at least 45 minutes before lying down. Making this a consistent practice and policy in your home helps your child with preparing for sleep before they ever lay down in their bed.
Avoid Sugar and Caffeine Close to Bedtime
Thirdly, to help resolve sleep issues in children, you need to make sure that your child doesn’t consume sugar and caffeine close to bedtime. Sugar provides energy that awakens your body and mind. The last thing a child or anyone needs close to bedtime is more energy. Instead, you need to help your body start preparing for rest. Sugar works against this natural process.
Likewise, caffeine close to bedtime can keep a child up for several more hours. As a result, parents need to make sure that their children don’t drink caffeine drinks at night. The best practice should be to try to avoid caffeine at or after dinner.
In fact, you should really limit most food and drink consumption after dinner and definitely after 7 pm at night. Limiting your child’s access to sugary and high-energy drinks and foods simply aids in helping your child’s body to shut down better. While every now and then you might break routine for a special treat, in general make sure to keep the sugary foods and drinks put away before bed.
Maintain a Sleep Enabling Environment
Finally, another helpful approach for addressing sleep issues in children involves making sure the sleep environment encourages sleep. This means making sure that the bedroom has a comfortable sleeping temperature. Additionally, you need to make sure to minimize light in the room as much as possible. You also need to limit noise coming into the room or provide a sound machine to help make a soothing sleep environment.
Essentially, you need to avoid an environment that is bright or loud or too hot or too cold. These elements can make sleep difficult if not impossible. For young children who would rather do anything other than sleep to begin with you don’t want to provide them any excuse not to sleep.
When your child goes to bed, make sure they feel comfortable in their bed. Make sure that they don’t have anything that might provide them a reason to stay awake. For instance, for children who might get distracted by toys or books, make sure you put these all out of reach. When your child heads to bed, they should enter a room set up to completely encourage sleep. Making sure that the environment allows for sleep helps resolve many issues that might keep your child up late at night.
Working With Your Pediatrician to Resolve Sleep Issues in Children
Hopefully in this article we have been able to cover key indicators of possible sleep issues in children and how to address them well. One thing we have yet to cover in depth, though, is making sure to include your pediatrician in how you approach sleep issues in children. As we have mentioned before, your pediatrician acts as a powerful ally in protecting your child’s health. They oftentimes have the tools and insight that can help you see the bigger picture of how to help resolve problems like trouble sleeping.
If you notice potential sleep issues in your child, you should discuss possible causes with your pediatrician. In rare instances, your pediatrician might even prescribe sleep medication if other approaches prove unsuccessful. Whatever the approach, though, your pediatrician can act as your greatest ally in resolving sleep issues in children for good.