Ask any parent... children and sleep problems often go together. Whether it's a baby who can't sleep, dealing with toddler bedtime tantrums, or trying to convince a teenager to go to bed earlier, most parents struggle with this issue at one time or another.
While occasional sleep issues are not concerning, children can suffer from several serious sleep disorders that can compromise their health and happiness.
Conditions such as insomnia or sleep apnea aren't just issues for adults. Children suffer from them, as well. The more common sleep issues that affect children include bedwetting, night terrors, sleep walking and sleep talking.
According to National Sleep Foundation, 69% of children under the age of 10 currently have or have suffered from some time of sleep problem.
While a newborn sleeps for about 16 hours (albeit intermittently)a day, he or she should be getting approximately 10 to 12 hours of contiguous sleep by 6 months of age, along with taking two or three naps during the day.
As your baby gets older, he or she will sleep less at night and cut down on the daytime naps as well. Expect around 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night and one (possibly two) naps during the day. Grade schoolers often need 11 to 12 hours of sleep each night, reducing to an optimum of nine to 10 hours during the teenage years.
Children and Sleep Problems - The Impact
Children with sleep issues may have difficulty falling asleep or they may wake several times during the night for no apparent reason. Specific parasomnias such as night terrors, nightmares, or bedwetting can disrupt their sleep.
In addition, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, allergies, asthma, too much caffeine and sugar, or the side effects of medication can also cause sleep disruptions.
For children with sleep problems, it's not just the immediate symptoms of sleep deprivation such as poor concentration, mood swings, or memory problems that affect them. Studies have shown that there are more long-term , significant effects to worry about.
Research by the Harvard Medical School found that young children who consistently slept for less than 12 hours a day during their first two years doubled their risk of being overweight by three years of age.
Another study on children and sleep problems conducted by researchers from the University of London found that children with sleep problems were more likely to suffer from anxiety or depression, or to exhibit aggressive behavior.
Teens and Sleep
Teens often prefer to spend their evening hours texting, surfing the web, playing video games, or talking with friends. Sleep is typically viewed as negotiable, rather than an essential part of their life.
While not surprising, lack of sleep can cause many teens to experience increased levels of anxiety, perform poorly at school, and be at greater risk of depression and other health concerns. In addition, without adequate sleep they are more prone to emotional problems, relationship difficulties, automobile accidents, discipline issues, and injuries.
Check out these sleep tips for teens written by a teenager who wanted to show how insomnia impacted her life: Sleep For Teens.)
Establishing Good Sleep Habits from the Beginning
For babies and young children, a few basic rules and routines can set the stage for a good night's sleep and healthy outlook. Simple steps such as setting up a regular and calming bedtime routine, avoiding caffeine, reducing sugary foods and drinks, and get enough exercise during the day can make a difference in your child's quality of sleep.
If good sleep habits are encouraged early on, they can help reduce the chances of having children with sleep problems later. Of course, as your child matures and becomes a teenager, your control over bedtime and sleep habits becomes considerably less. However, teens whose bodies have become accustomed to a regular routine and good sleep habits are likely to sleep better overall.
Although, good sleep hygiene (sleep habits) can go a long way towards minimizing sleep problems in children, conditions such as childhood insomnia, pediatric sleep apnea, night terrors, and bedwetting need specialized help.
For children with sleep problems who are experiencing these sleep disorders or parasomnias, diagnosis and treatment by a healthcare professional is essential. Therefore, if you think your child is suffering from lack of sleep, visit your family doctor or pediatrician. He or she will be able to help you and your child find their way back to a better night's sleep.
To learn more about pediatric sleep disorders, click here: children and sleep problems.
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Sleep Disorders in Children
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