Updated May 2017
Children not sleeping well are of concern. A child needs sleep for developing mind and body. Without it, learning and behavioural problems may arise. Sleep enables children to resolve daily issues and happenings. It helps them remember what they learnt the day before. Without sleep, both children and adults may lack energy, find it hard to concentrate, and have difficulties understanding instructions.
Children not sleeping well – how long is needed
Preschoolers need 11 to 13 hours to sleep, school age needs 9 to 11 hours and teenagers need between 8.5 to 9.5 hours.
Children not sleeping well – causes & effects
A child’s sleep problems often start after changes in their daily life. Causes of children not sleeping well may include moving house, going on holiday, parent separation, family fights, being sick, having an accident or starting school. All or any may affect the child’s sleep, leading to anxiety, stress and depression.
Children not sleeping well – preparing a child for bed
Being consistent is vital. Preparing children for bed needs at least half an hour to enable them to relax. Avoid their using an Ipod, computer, TV, or anything with a blue screen – all stimulate the mind. Also avoid large amounts of food and give none with sugar or caffeine: such as chocolate or soft drinks. Be strict about this.
Start with a shower or warm bath, then changing into pyjamas, cleaning teeth and going to the toilet. Follow then by reading, telling a story or singing a lullaby, but no scary stories. Then a goodnight hug and kiss. After that lights out and leave the room. A child might want to prolong this, perhaps asking for one more story or another drink. Do not give in. Learning limits is important for child development.
Preparing your child for bed can be mutually rewarding. It creates and reinforces close bonding and mutual love.
Children not sleeping well – reasons why not
If your child seems anxious, leave a small night-light on in the bedroom. Give your child a security toy, such as a teddy or any other item that comforts a child in distress. Teach your child a simple breathing technique to settle thinking and to help calming.
That your child wakes up during the night is natural. If your child does not go back to sleep, cries and calls out, wait for some minutes. If she does not go back to sleep, do not enter the room, but speak outside the room in a comforting way. If this happens often, gradually increase the response time.
Your child might cry and scream for a long period. You may be almost at breaking point, and just want to give in. This is the time for ‘tough love’. Do not lie down next to your child, or allow the child to sleep in your bed, ‘just this one time’ – nor hold or rock the child. Keep calm and reassure your child that she is capable of doing it alone. You need to be very firm about this. Helping the child to go back to sleep will make it harder next time. (It is also very confusing for the child to have rules changed.) If you have taught your child to sleep alone in the evening, she is able to do it when they wake up during the night as well.
Children not sleeping well – unlearning bad bedtime habits
Bring a chair next to the bed, turn off any bright lights and sit there quietly until the child falls sleep. Each night move the chair a little further from the bed, until the chair is out of the room. The door might still be left open, but only if the child stays in bed. If the child gets out of bed at night say that the door needs to be closed. You might reassure the child that you are just outside the room in the chair. Stay until she appears to be asleep. Reward the child for not getting out of the bed by leaving the door open. This may take two to three weeks.
Children not sleeping well – rewards
Once a child’s sleep habits improve consider a reward system, such as a chart to track sleep. Reward the good nights with stickers. When there is an agreed amount of good nights, reward with a small gift. Small immediate rewards are better than a big one that needs a long waiting period.
Children not sleeping well – further issues
It is normal for a child to have nightmares. If your child does, the approach is slightly different. (A blog on nightmares follows soon.)
If your child has persistent sleep problems, you need professional help. See a qualified child therapist like myself, or your doctor or paediatrician to decide if your child needs to attend a sleep clinic for children.
Contact Maarit Rivers now for an initial free consultation for your child.
[email protected] or call me NOW on 0417 462 115