A child’s sleep is a precious thing. It can be measured in smiling faces, happy dispositions, and a natural zest for life. A child robbed of healthy slumber, can turn an entire family’s life into a bad dream. Your unrested son or daughter may suffer problems in development and behavior and, in turn, you and other members of the household may suffer undue stress.
It is important to establish a pattern that promotes good quality sleep for daytime naps and nighttime slumber. What’s most important is recognizing problems in your child’s sleep so that you can start to solve them. Signs of a problem with your child’s sleep:
- Too much time is spent helping your child fall asleep
- Your child wakes up repeatedly throughout the night
- The child’s behavior and mood are affected by poor sleep
- Parents lose sleep as a result of the child’s nighttime patterns
- Poor sleep causes the parent-child relationship to suffer
Helping your child to a good night’s sleep
A child’s most common sleep problems can be corrected quickly once they are identified and treated. Usually, a little guidance and some common sense can solve the problem. Sometimes talking with other parents or your healthcare provider will provide some useful tips. Recommendations for helping your child sleep soundly:
- Follow a consistent routine
- Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime
- Don’t substitute television-watching or videos for personal interaction at bedtime
- Screen television programs, videos, and computer games for age-appropriate material
- Avoid letting the child fall asleep with a bottle or while nursing, being held or rocked
- Avoid food and drinks containing caffeine (chocolate, sodas, etc.)
Occasionally, consulting with a sleep disorders specialist is recommended. Sleep Center of Greater Pittsburgh works with children beginning at age seven. It is important that you understand that most sleep problems in children do not reflect poor parenting, nor does it mean that there is something seriously physically or mentally wrong with your child. Remember, a child who sleeps well will fall asleep easily, rarely wake during the night, and is more likely to be cheerful during the day. The better a child sleeps, the happier that entire family is likely to be.