Information on child sleep, toddler sleep or teen sleep can be hard to find as most child sleep disorders get swept under the broad subject of adult sleep disorders.
If you think your child has a sleep disorder, be assured it can probably be sorted out quite easily with some good advice.
Does your child have a sleep disorder?
If your child takes a long time to settle at night or sometimes wakes up during the night, parents often think they must have a problem or be sleep deprived. However if he or she wakes up full of energy and doesn’t feel tired during the day, chances are they are getting all the sleep they need.
Some children simply need less sleep than others, just like adults. So how can we find out for sure?
Here’s a short test
- They can’t fall asleep within 30 minutes
- They wake often during the night.
- They wake up still feeling tired.
- They fall asleep during the day
If your child fits into these scenarios, especially nos. 3 and 4, chances are there’s a problem.
However don’t despair! Most child sleep disoeders are due to over-stimulation and bad habits! Both can be dealt with with a bit of persistence.
The following chart lists the approximate sleep requirement for a child at different ages. If your child doesn’t fit into these categories don’t panic! If they’re energetic and otherwise coping ok, chances are all is well.
(For infant sleep times, please see the baby sleep page)
|Age of child||Night||Day (naps)||Total Sleep Time|
|1 year||11||2.5||13.5 hours|
|2 years||11||2||13 hours|
|3 years||10.5||1.5||12 hours|
|4 years||11.5||0||11.5 hours|
|5 years||11||0||11 hours|
This will gradually decrease until the age of 15 to 16 years when your child should be sleeping much the same times as an adult. This will depend a lot on lifestyle and should be taken as an approximate guide.
Don’t give children sleeping pills
Warning! Please don’t give your child prescription sleeping pills. Most haven’t been tested on children. Sleeping pills could set your child up for a lifetime of poor sleep and sleeping pill addiction. Find yourself a health care practitioner who will take the time to find out why your child isn’t sleeping rather than just handing out sleep medicines.
Sleep deprived children
Sleep deprivation in children can seriously affect their health. Sleep deprived kids get sick more often, don’t learn as well, are less happy and even don’t grow as tall! Good reasons to make sure they are getting enough sleep.
Kids that are starting school can be particularly hard hit. Their brains are trying to absorb more information, they may be stressed and they have to get up on time every morning. They may have been able to nap during the day before, but now they can’t.
Older children and teens studying for exams can also be sleep deprived. Some of them are also working part time to finance their studies.
How to help your child get more sleep…
Get tough on bedtime! Letting kids stay up late, even on weekends isn’t doing them any favours. Children need a sleep routine and they actually will appreciate the security it provides. Be firm and don’t give in. They’ll get used to it!
Make sure they wind down an hour before bedtime. Turn off the TV or computer games and stop any play that’s too stimulating. Let their minds understand that it’s time for bed. This will establish good habits that will last them years into the future, or until they become teenagers…..
Make sure they get up at the same time every morning. This establishes a good sleep habit and also resets their body clock. Try and make sure there is plenty of light in their room or, better still, shoo them out into the sunshine! This makes sure the supply of melatonin, a sleep inducer produced by the body, is established for the following night.
Exercise encourages sleep
Are they getting enough exercise? This is vital for proper restful sleep and good health in general.
Check to see if there is too much light in the room at night. Block out street lights and make sure any LED displays on clocks are not too bright. For this same reason never let your child have a TV in their bedroom. The bright and flickering screen upsets the normal circadian rhythm.
Reading or listening to relaxing music can help though. If you have the time, kids love a bedtime story. It relaxes them and can be part of the bonding process between you.
Too much noise? Some kids can sleep through the World Cup, others wake up at the slightest noise. Normal household noises are ok, just make sure it’s not too loud.
Cutting out sugar can help
We all know about caffeine but what about sugar? It can make some children hyped up and overactive. Try cutting it out completely after 3pm and see if this helps.
Are they healthy? Sometimes a cold, flu or other kid aches and pains can keep them awake. Make sure they’re as comfortable as possible
Stress can also play a part in kid’s sleep. Keep communication open and talk to them or reassure them before bedtime. Try and get them to talk to you about their problems.
Sometimes children will need help re-establishing their sleep pattern…
Children who wake in the night
The above suggestions should help in keeping children asleep, but there will be times when they wake during the night. If this is a problem for you and your family, try to get them to go back to sleep without disturbing you.
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Of course if children are scared or distressed by nightmares or night terrors, they will need your comfort and reassurance. But otherwise kids should be encouraged to manage their own sleep. Ensure them you are always nearby but let them know you need your rest too. Eventually they will form healthy sleep habits.
Visit our Childhood nightmares page for help if your child has nightmares.
Is your child anxious? Does he or she seem worried, cry a lot, afraid of the dark, afraid to go to school or suffer from separation anxiety? Kids have problems with stress too. While parents are understandably reluctant to give their children drugs, there is a much safer and healthier option. K-OK Kiddie Calmer is a homeopathic remedy which soothes anxiety in children. Homeopathic remedies work by strengthening the child’s own body to heal itself. Get More Info on K-OK Kiddie Calmer for Child Anxiety and Shyness
“It is wonderful to know that my child does not have to take prescription drugs anymore after three years. She sucks her K-OK Kiddie Calmer and likes the taste and it has really calmed her a lot as it promised. She feels much better and behaves more like a normal kid now, rather than clutching onto my skirt for deal life every time someone speaks to her!” – Thanks from a happy mother.
If you would like a free e-book on nightmares and night terrors please download here (right click to download, left click to read online)