For some parents, getting your child into bed is a struggle that can take hours. We look at the 10 top reasons why kids develop sleep problems and what parents can do to help overcome these. Ultimately…we all want and need more z’s….
According to research by the Sleep Health Foundation, more than a third of Australian adults do not get enough quality sleep and since the pandemic has begun, over 46% of Aussies are sleeping poorly according to Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health at Monash University.
Getting a decent night’s sleep is crucial for everyone, but especially for children. As they grow rapidly, sufficient sleep is vital for their overall physical and mental wellbeing. It regulates their immune system which helps their bodies recognise and defend itself against bacteria and viruses.
Sleep is also critical to memory consolidation, which is particularly important in the early developmental stages.
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Why Do Kids Develop Sleep Problems?
To ensure your child is getting good quality sleep, we sat down with Eric Chan, Head of Pharmacy at Blooms The Chemist, to discuss some of the causes of sleep problems and sleep deprivation in children and how parents can adapt simple management strategies for a healthy family.
1) Bedtime Routines
Having a consistent nightly bedtime routine can help children feel regulated. Recent studies have shown that a bedtime routine is associated with positive child mood and enhanced emotional-behavioral regulation. Establishing a relaxing, bedtime routine which includes soothing activities such as bathing and reading can help improve sleep quality.
Try to reduce technology and screens prior to bedtime. Research indicates that the light from electronics stimulates the brain which can inhibit the production of melatonin and serotonin, the hormones that help us get to sleep.
3) Stress and Anxiety
Night-time fears are common in preschool and school-age children and can manifest as difficulty in falling asleep, nightmares and bedwetting. Studies show these fears may be related to safety, separation, fear of imaginary creatures or the dark, and social pressures. Try talking to your child about potential fears they might have and reassure them that they’re safe. If your child is having regular night terrors or sleepwalking episodes consult your healthcare professional.
4) Caffeine and diet
If your child is experiencing sleeping problems, it could be linked to their diet. Try to avoid giving your kids caffeinated and high sugar products such as soft drinks and chocolate, especially in the afternoon or evening.
When children are sleep deprived, just like adults, they are more likely to be moody. According to statistics from the Harvard Medical School, being sleep deprived can negatively affect our mood and outlook, so if your child is particularly cranky, over-emotional or irritable, it could be from a lack of quality sleep.
6) Underlying Medical Issues
Insomnia can be linked to other medical issues, such as sleep apneoa or restless leg syndrome. It could also be triggered by non-sleep related problems such as allergies, growing pains or asthma. Making sure your child is having regular health check-ups can help identify any issues that could be interfering with their sleep.
7) Time Together
Studies have shown that caregivers who spend at least 20 minutes prior to bedtime with their child see a significant decrease in tantrums or refusal to go to bed. Spending time with your child before bed, asking them about their day, reading and cuddling can improve children’s emotional-behavioural regulation and parent-child bonding and attachment.
Without daily exercise, children may be more prone to feeling energetic and restless when they get to bed. Getting kids outside in daylight and exercising promotes good quality sleep. This has never been more important!
9) Bedroom Environment
A calming sleep environment is important for children’s senses. Keeping their room comfortable, dimly lit and quiet will help to soothe and promote deep sleep. Ensure the room is kept cool which helps decrease the body temperature signals that transition to sleep.
10) Positive Reinforcement
It might be frustrating when you have to keep walking your child back to bed, or when they rise before the sun is even up, but it’s important to instill positive reinforcement and rewards when they do sleep. When we get upset or frustrated, it could create negative associations with being in bed.
Learning the signs of sleep problems in your child can improve the quality of their sleep and your family life.
When looking for expert advice or supplements to assist with better sleep, Blooms The Chemist is your local destination for health advice this Sleep Awareness Week.
Has your child suffered from sleep problems? Tell us in the comments below.