Children who are not able to get a good night’s rest on a consistent basis are more likely to suffer from obesity, depression, learning difficulties and anxiety disorders later in life. In our over stimulated and high volume society, sleep has never been more important.
There are a variety of reasons a child may have trouble sleeping every once in awhile. They may be over excited from too much TV or gaming, eager about an upcoming event or they may have had too much caffeine. They may be worried about something or they may just be having a bad night. We all have those every once in awhile.
But when a child consistently has trouble sleeping it can become a real problem. Loud snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, frequent night terrors or sleepwalking may be signs your child has a sleep disorder that needs treatment.
Snoring is one of the biggest sleep disorder culprits. Children snore occasionally, but if you can hear your child snoring from the next room and gasping for breath then a visit with your pediatrician or family doctor is in order. Your child could have sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is typically thought of as an adult disorder, but more and more children are presenting with symptoms as well. Symptoms may include interrupted or stopped breathing, chronic mouth breathing during sleep, night sweats and a lot of tossing and turning throughout the night. It’s estimated that 1 to 4 percent of children, ages 2 to 8 years old, suffer from sleep apnea.
Your doctor may recommend a sleep disorder clinic for further testing.
Children need more sleep than adults do. Preschoolers should be getting about 12 to 14 hours of total sleep a day. Once they start school, 10 to 12 hours a day will help them be refreshed and alert.
Children with ADHD may also have trouble sleeping. ADHD is linked with a variety of sleep problems in kids and can have a profound affect on ADHD symptoms.
Sometimes the symptoms of sleep apnea and ADHD are so similar that a sleep disorder clinic is advised to determine the exact problem.
It takes time for a child to fall asleep and sometimes parents think their child should be fast asleep within five minutes of getting in bed. It actually takes more like 20 minutes to unwind and drift off.
There are things you can do to help your child sleep better.
- Make sure their room is cool and dark. If your child is afraid of the dark (and lots of kids are) a small nightlight on the other side of the room is ok.
- Turn down the TV or other noises in the house. Make the house as quiet as possible.
- Have your child go to bed at the same time every night. Your child’s circadian rhythm clock can learn the cue for sleepiness as it becomes used to the routine.
- Stop all stimulating activities at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Turn off the TV and computer and move to more calming activities.
If your child continues to have trouble sleeping or getting to sleep you might think about creating a sleep log. Write down how long your child sleeps uninterrupted and any waking or snoring episodes. Also log their next day behavior and whether they are cranky, sleepy, anxious etc. Take the journal with you when you see your pediatrician or family doctor and review your observations with them.
More and more studies are being done on the importance of sleep and children because scientists are discovering how important a good night’s rest is to healthy child development. In our ramped up society, looking at something as simple as sleep is telling us more than we ever dreamed possible.