Sleep Problems in Children: What Helps?
Many parents know the struggle when their little ones don't want to go to bed at night. But sometimes there is more to it than just a phase of defiance: sleep problems in children are always a serious matter. The reason: children are even more dependent on sufficient sleep for optimal mental and physical development than we adults are. In this article, you will learn what you can do if your child has difficulty falling asleep or sleeping through the night, to ensure a more peaceful night's sleep in the future.
Sleep problems in children: How much sleep is considered normal for babies?
Sleep problems in children are not only a burden for the little ones. They also cause their parents to worry. After all, parents only want the best for their child. And if the latter frequently have problems falling asleep or sleeping through the night, the whole family is subject to stress. Sufficient sleep is essential for us humans to stay in good health. However, a good night's sleep is even more important for our offspring: babies and toddlers are still growing and therefore need more sleep than adults. Newborns sleep up to 17 hours a day. While the little ones slumber peacefully, their bodies release growth hormones, which are essential for their physical and mental development. Because their sleep cycle of 60 minutes is also significantly shorter than that of adults, babies wake up more frequently. Sometimes this can also be due to hunger, so a change in breastfeeding rhythm can reduce night-time waking. Alternatively, your child may crave physical closeness at night. A co-sleeper bed right next to mom's bed can provide more security. Co-sleeping in a family bed can also be an option.
Is frequent night-time waking in children a cause for concern?
As children get older, their sleep rhythm gradually settles. Toddlers need between 10 and 15 hours of sleep. The optimal number of hours varies from child to child. If your child is already well-rested and happy after 10 hours of sleep, you don't need to worry. If there are more and more signs of tiredness during the day, this could be an indication that your little one needs longer rest periods. Sleep problems in children can have various causes, but sometimes the reasons are harmless. Up to the age of 5, it is perfectly normal for children to wake up at night. This is often a phase: if your child has been able to sleep through the night so far and suddenly wakes up again at night, this may be due to a growth spurt or the development of baby teeth. Parents simply need to be patient until this period is over and the child is sleeping peacefully again. However, if the sleep problems happen more frequently and over a longer period of time, a sleep disorder may be the cause.
When do doctors speak of sleep disorders in children?
Sleep problems in children have prompted many worried parents to visit the pediatrician. Fortunately, the doctor can usually give the all-clear. For example, a three-year-old child must wake up at least three times a night on five days of the week or lie awake for more than 20 minutes several times for a sleep disorder to be diagnosed. Occasional night-time waking is not yet a cause for concern in toddlers aged 2 to 5. It may be due to a nightmare, or your child simply wants to make sure that mom and dad are still there.
It is often not so much sleeping through the night as actually falling asleep that causes problems for children of this age. Surely you know nights when your child just can't settle down and doesn't want to go to bed. Establishing a fixed bedtime ritual such as singing or reading a bedtime story together may help. You should also make sure that your child's evenings are low in stimuli. Exciting films or wild play are fun but can lead to sensory overload and should therefore be scheduled earlier in the day. In addition to fixed bedtimes, problems falling asleep are sometimes simply due to a desire for safety and security. A cuddly toy in bed or a night light on the bedside table can work wonders to reduce your child's fear of being alone.
What are the causes of sleep problems in schoolchildren?
It's not just babies and toddlers who have problems falling asleep. Getting enough sleep can also be a challenge when your children are older. However, when school-aged children are occasionally unable to fall asleep or cannot sleep through the night, other causes are likely the reason. Often there is a problem on the little ones' minds. Stress at school or a fight with friends can lead to your child being unable to rest at night. If parents argue frequently, this can also deprive the child of sleep.
In any case, it helps to sit down and talk to your child calmly. An understanding conversation not only gives them the opportunity to open up, but also strengthens a loving relationship. It is the best way to ensure that your child feels safe and secure and can fall asleep without a care in the world. Good to know: There doesn't necessarily have to be anything negative behind children's sleep problems. The excitement of an upcoming birthday party or a planned family outing can also prevent them from falling asleep. In this case, short nights are only a temporary phenomenon and nothing to worry about.