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A Guide to Solving Your Child's Sleep Problems

Updated on September 7, 2011

As a parent I know the distress that your child's sleeping problems can cause and when one of my good friends suggested that many parents would find a hub on children's sleep problems helpful and that I ought to write one I decided to rise to her challenge. I've already written quite a few hubs based around the subject of insomnia but had not written anything dealing with sleep problems in children. I decided that I would write the hub to provide the sort of information that I would have liked to have had available when my son was much younger!

The first piece of information I wanted to share is that having a child with sleep problems is unfortunately not that uncommon. A report published in 2004 by the University of Surrey on "Children's sleep: problems and solutions" advised that up to 43% of children can experience a sleep problem at some stage during their development. If you are a new parent or you have never experienced any sleeping problems in your children before it can be bewildering and exhausting as a child with sleep problem usually also has parents who aren't getting enough sleep.

I then decided that some basic information on children's sleeping problems would be a good starting place.. Children's sleeping problems which are also sometimes called sleeping disorders fall into one of three categories and it is possible for a child to suffer with a combination of problems that fall into one or more of the categories. The categories of sleeping problems are

  • Insomnia
  • Hypersomnia
  • Parasomnia

Source

Insomnia

The most common sleep problem or disorder in children is insomnia and it is no different to the insomnia which we as adults can suffer. Most of us associate insomnia with difficulty getting to sleep but insomnia is used to describe any loss of sleep at any point of the sleep cycle which causes the sufferer to feel tired the next day. This means that if your child is waking up too early or waking in the night and then finding it difficult to get back to sleep they are suffering from insomnia.

Five Interesting Sleep Facts to Share with Your Children

1. Somnus was the Roman God of Sleep.

2. The 'somnia' in insomnia, hypersomnia and parasomnia is a latin word usually translated as meaning dreams or sleep.

3. if a person were to stop eating and sleeping they would die from a lack of sleeping before they starved to death.

4. New parents lose more than 400 hours sleep in year following the birth of their child.

5. Our brains are more active while sleeping than watching televison

Hypersomnia

Hypersomnia is in some ways the opposite of insomnia and children with hypersomnia will often sleep well in excess of the normal length of sleep and can be very difficult to wake up whilst they are sleeping. The strange thing with parasomnia is that in spite of getting more sleep than most these children will still feel tired during the day and need to take naps.

Hypersomnia is quite a rare sleep problem in adults and it is even more unusual in children .

Parasomnia

Parasomnia is an undesirable behaviour or experience that occurs during sleep.  Common parasomnias include nightmares, night terrors, sleep walking and bed wetting although not every healthcare practioner will classify bed wetting as a type of parasomnia.. 

Parasomnia is the one area of sleep problems that children suffer more commonly than adults but it is often something which they will grow out of.

Disclaimer

The content in this article is provided for your informational purposes only and it is not intended to be used as a substitute for accurate and appropriate medical advice from your health care professional.

So now I've given you a little background information the next step had to be to work out whether your child has a sleeping problem. If they are suffering from nightmares or night terrors or are wetting the bed this is of course easy to determine. Insomnia can be much more difficult to work out as a lot of parents will assume that if their child takes a long time to settle at night or often wakes in the night that they must be suffering with insomnia. This isn't the case at all, as for a child (or adult) to be suffering from insomnia they also need to feel tired or not properly rested on top of losing sleep. This means that if your child wakes up each morning full of beans and doesn't feel tired during the day there isn't a sleeping problem but there might be another problem causing them to have an over abundance of energy.

Five Funny Sleep Jokes to Share with Your Children

  1. Did you hear about the new parents who called their baby daughter 'Caffeine?'
    Because it kept them awake all night!
  2. Patient: 'Doctor, doctor, I can't get to sleep at night.'
    Doctor: 'Lie on the edge of the bed and you'll soon drop off.'
  3. Patient: 'Doctor, doctor, how can I stop myself sleepwalking?'
    Doctor: 'Put drawing-pins on the bedroom floor.'
  4. What does one good turn give you?
    All the blankets!
  5. Why did my brother throw away his alarm clock?
    Because it kept going off while he was asleep.

 

Relying on your memory to remember events which happened a couple of weeks or even a few days ago can be difficult and one of the most useful tools I found to help diagnose sleeping problems is to use a sleep diary. There is an example of a sleep diary in my hub "Insomnia-A Sleeping Disorder" but you would of course need to adapt this for your child's own individual circumstances.

Sleep loss can cause serious health issues. Children who don't get enough sleep are less happy, get ill more often, find learning at school more difficult and don't even grow as well as they should so it isn't a problem that you should take lightly. One of the most difficult decisions you will have to face is when and whether you need to seek medical help for your child's problem. That is only a decision which you can make but with any of my son's health problems my husband and I have always erred on the side of caution as our family doctor has always been able to give us the reassurance and advice that we need, understanding our preference to avoid medication but knowing when this preference needs to be put to one side and medication given.

 

Children's sleep problems is such a large a topic to cover that I can't do the subject justice in just one hub so I've written three further hubs that I hope you will find useful and interesting.

Best Wishes for a Deep and Restful Slumber.

 

Comments

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    • Amber Allen profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Allen 

      7 years ago

      Hi Peter

      Your granddaughter's sleeping problem is common but the causes of this problem are very varied. I'm a firm believer that there isn't just one right solution to this problem.

      It is often difficult for parents to set boundaries in these circumstances because they feel as if they are rejecting their child.

      Some parents are very happy sharing their bed with their children and might be able to solve the problem sleeping by buying a bigger bed.

      Assuming that your son in law and daughter don't fall into this group they need to try and work out what is causing your granddaughter to wake up and then work out how to tackle this. If she is old enough it might be possible to use a simple reward system or by explaining that she is making Mummy and Daddy very tired. It could be as simple as her being scared of shadows on her walls that she thinks looks like monsters or it might be that she needs to go to the toilet just before bedtime to stop her waking up.

      Keeping a sleep diary might help identify the problem.

      Amber:)

    • Peter Owen profile image

      Peter Owen 

      7 years ago from West Hempstead, NY

      granddaughter has this problem now. Daughter and son in law clashing due to lack of sleep. Do you have any info on child coming into your bed every night?

    • profile image

      Renee Pendergrass 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for sharing!

    • Amber Allen profile imageAUTHOR

      Amber Allen 

      7 years ago

      Thanks Pamela. I do hope that parents will find this hub useful. Having a child with sleep problems can be very distressing.

      Amber:)

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Great information. This is going to be very helpful to many parents.

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