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Do Your Kids Have Sleep Problems? 5 Solutions

Fri, Feb. 24, 2017 Posted: 06:30 AM

When your kids aren’t sleeping well, it can feel like an impossible problem. They’re cranky, more likely to get sick, and they keep you up as well. Sleep is vital for children’s development, and if there’s a problem, it’s up to you to find a solution.

Here are a few things other parents have successfully implemented:

1. Improve Their Sleep Environment

A poor sleep environment may be the reason you wake up in the middle of the night. An old mattress, bed coverings that are too light or heavy, scratchy pajamas, street noises, and more can overstimulate your children at night.

One of the most important aspects of a good sleep environment is creating as close to total darkness as possible.

“New research indicates that light pollution (any light, especially too-bright clocks or night lights) can disrupt hormone regulation, which affects sleep, and also immune system function,” Joyce Johnson, a naturopath in Ontario told Today’s Parent.

It’s true that many kids get scared in the dark, so they need a nightlight. But limit the amount of light as much as possible. Invest in blackout curtains or shades and get a dimmer night light.

2. Get on a Schedule

Kids thrive on schedules and routines. If you currently don’t have a schedule or you’ve gotten away from it during the summer, it could be the root of your problems.

"If a child is having irregular bedtimes at a young age, they're not synthesizing all the information around them at that age, and they've got a harder job to do when they are older. It sets them off on a more difficult path," explains Amanda Sacker, a professor at the University College London who performed a study on the impact of sleep routines on a child’s brain.

Sacker and her colleagues discovered that kids who were put to bed at the same time every night had an easier time sleeping through the night, which, in turn, positively influenced their brain development.

3. Change Their Bedtime Routine

Maybe you’re a dedicated parent who has never strayed from your children’s bedtime routine, and your kids are still struggling. The problem could be what you do before they hop into bed.

First of all, it’s important to time it right. A study performed in New Zealand showed that younger children need a 30-minute routine before bed to sleep soundly afterward. Older children require between 30 and 60 minutes to wind down completely and fall fast asleep.

If you want your young kids in bed by 7:30 p.m., start your routine at 7:00. During this time, follow the lead of your kids. Of course, you’ll want them to brush their teeth, put pajamas on, and possibly take a bath, but don’t rush them too much.

Here are some common bedtime routines that many parents have success with:

• Cuddle together
• Get a small drink of water or milk
• Bedtime yoga
• Apply lotion or give a gentle massage
• Read one or two books together
• Talk quietly about their favorite parts of the day
• Sing a lullaby
• Say prayers
• Read a Bible verse or two

Take cues from your kids. You’ll get an idea of what effectively helps them wind down, so they can sleep soundly.

4. Have a Snack Cutoff Time

Many parents give their kids a bedtime snack, but eating so close to bedtime might be what’s waking them up.

It could instigate a midnight bathroom trip, and a full stomach makes it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. The snacks can increase their energy levels for a couple of hours, inhibiting relaxation and peaceful slumber.

It’s also harder for the body to digest when you’re lying down, so a full stomach makes you uncomfortable. Eating too close to bedtime is a bad habit that can cause problems your whole life, so teach them early.

5. Treat Bigger Sleep Problems

It’s not uncommon for kids to experience a sleep disorder. According to a study published in the American Family Physician, 50 percent of children experience sleep problems.

Some of the most common child sleep problems include:

• Sleepwalking
• Sleep talking
• Obstructive sleep apnea
• Confusional arousals
• Sleep terrors
• Nighttime phobias
• Excessive daytime sleepiness
• Bedwetting
• Nightmares
• Anxiety

If you’ve tried everything, and your kids still aren’t sleeping through the night, consider medical testing. Some disorders can be dangerous, and there are treatments that can help everyone in your house sleep better.

Lynn Joesph