There is a high prevalence of sleep disturbances among children, and if they are not treated properly, they can become chronic and last for many years. There are several factors that can cause sleep disturbances, including developmental changes, medical conditions, behavioral problems, and environmental factors.
It is common for children under the age of five to experience difficulty falling asleep, frequent waking in the middle of the night, waking up early in the morning, nightmares, and night terrors. Children with these problems may be sleep deprived and fatigued, which may affect their mood, behavior, and performance in school.
Children with sleep disturbances can benefit from several strategies, including:
- A consistent bedtime routine helps to signal to the child that it is time to go to sleep, as well as to create a relaxing environment.
- The blue light emitted by these devices can interfere with sleep, so limit your screen time before bed.
- It is recommended that you engage in regular physical activity in order to improve your sleep and reduce anxiety and stress.
- A comfortable bed, a cool room temperature, and reducing noise will improve sleep quality.
- Treatment from a doctor may be required if a child’s sleep disturbances are caused by an underlying medical condition, such as sleep apnea.
- Sleep disturbances in children may be treated with medications. Medication should only be used as a last resort and under the guidance of your doctor.
Every child is different, and what works for one may not work for another. In the event your child is experiencing persistent sleep disturbances, it’s important to consult a pediatrician or sleep specialist to determine the underlying cause.
Good sleep hygiene is essential for children of all ages. In addition to helping set the foundation for a lifetime of good sleep, encouraging healthy sleep habits at an early age can prevent sleep disturbances from becoming chronic issues.
The process of change requires patience and understanding. Often, it takes several weeks or months to see results when trying to improve sleep disturbances in children. Children’s sleep quality and disturbances can often be improved with persistence and a combination of strategies.
A person who suffers from insomnia is one whose inability to get to sleep is repeated (more than 30 minutes per night), who does not receive adequate sleep (less than eight hours), and who does not consolidate or maintain adequate sleep quality regardless of having enough time and opportunity to sleep, all of which results in impaired daytime function for patients and their families. As a result of sleepiness, children can be irritable, suffer from behavioural problems, have learning difficulties, cause accidents in motor vehicles (teenagers), and have poor academic performance as a result.
Children’s sleep behaviour tends to follow some general trends, but there are huge differences between them, which can be attributed to chronic anxiety, cultural variations, or genetic differences. In the most recent epidemiological studies, it has been shown that the prevalence of pediatric insomnia varies from 10% in Vietnam to 25%–30% in the United States, and as much as 75% in China.
There are no guidelines regarding the best approach to improving sleep, but it has been shown that this can be beneficial for the affected children and their families as a whole as well.