Is Your Child Having Trouble Staying Asleep?
Is your child having trouble staying asleep? Twenty to thirty per cent of school-aged children are having difficulty getting sleep and staying asleep all night, and anxiety is a common reason. When kids have trouble staying asleep, parents don’t get to sleep, and your whole household becomes an overtired, cranky mess. Here are some ways to remove the worries and help everyone sleep better.
For some kids, the major cause of worry is the fear that they won’t be able to sleep. Some kids even begin to worry about sleep hours before bedtime. Or they wake up in the middle of the night and start worrying that they would have trouble staying asleep– and so they don’t. Yes, it’s irrational thinking, but trying to talk reason your child normally doesn’t work in this situation. Instead, Eliminate the worry cycle and help your child learn to fall asleep. It’s a skill that will last a lifetime.
Do not skip the pillow talk
Sit on his bed or snuggle beside them and chat about whatever is on their mind. Set limits– when you say it’s time to go to bed, it’s time to go. Don’t give in to whining about “don’t leave” or “sleep beside me all night.” Tell your child in before you start that you want to spend some special time with them but you can’t stay that long. Then listen. Try not to chat too much. Sometimes the listening part alone will let your child solve their own worries. Every once in awhile, get a chance to give them the wise words they need to hear, and be their hero.
Give your child a chance to self-regulate his or her bedtime
Your job as a parent is to put your children to bed– not to make them go to sleep. Keep wake-up time consistent with an alarm clock. If a child can’t sleep, let him or her read in bed. Keep the lights dim or off. If your child needs the aid of a reading light, purchase a clip-on LED reading light.
No devices before bed
Avoid all digital devices at least an hour before bed, two hours before will be much better. The blue light emitted from screens can inhibit the body’s release of melatonin. Here’s my confession of what happened when I tried putting my toddler to bed with an iPad.
Short term melatonin supplements can be an effective way to get a child sleep cycle back. Melatonin is a natural substance produced by the bodies that provide us that “oh so sleepy” feeling. You can also trick your body into natural melatonin release by keeping lights dim and blocking natural light before sleep. Melatonin can help kids fall asleep, but it doesn’t do that much for kids who wake up in the middle of the night. There are risks and limitations to melatonin use, and you should talk to your pediatrician before getting an over-the-counter supplement.
Teach your child to give their worries away
There is a tradition in Guatemala of teaching children to give their worries to little colorful dolls called worry dolls or trouble dolls. Children can tell the dolls their worries and then put the dolls under the pillow. As of the legend, the dolls then worry, instead of the child so that the child can sleep peacefully. You can buy these not so expensive dolls online, or just use the same idea of teaching your child to “give away” his or her worries to another object such as a stuffed animal or a doll they already have.
Routine, routine, routine
Remember that toddler bedtime routine of bath, brushing teeth, story, etc? Your school-age child still needs some bedtime routine. Find what works for them and stick to it.
Don’t skip the story
A bedtime story can refocus your child’s mind in a positive, imaginary world, help them forget their worries. Reading out loud to children has been shown to improve vocabulary and needed for development, and bedtime is a perfect time to read to kids. Find a book your whole family will enjoy.
Get rid of the stimulants
Avoid caffeine and energy drinks, and beware of hidden stimulants in chocolate and second-hand smoke. Anxiety, sleeplessness, and trouble staying asleep are side effects of a lot of medications, including over-the-counter cold medications and ADHD medications. If you think your child’s medications are some of the problems, be sure to call the prescribing physician before you stop them.
Regulate the fluids
Getting up in the night to use the bathroom is a normal sleep disturbance. It seems simple, but your child might just need a reminder not to drink anything after dinner (except while brushing teeth), and to use the washroom before bed.
Call your pediatrician
Your primary care pediatrician will help you rule out medical causes of sleeplessness and anxiety, including sleep apnea, allergies, snoring, medication side effects, and a lot more. Your pediatrician can also provide anxiety medications and may be able to cure uncomplicated anxiety without a referral to psychiatry. If needed, Pediatricians can make a referral to a sleep center for a sleep study or other tests.