Any parent can attest to how difficult it is to put a kid to sleep at night. Babies have distorted sleep patterns that can cause distress to the baby and the parent, while on the other hand older kids develop sleep problems as they grow. For infants, it is because they take longer to transition to long bouts of sleep.
What's more, they need to feed frequently, usually 8-12 times every 24 hours. Babies develop consistent sleep patterns when they are three months or older. If they are still exhibiting distorted sleep patterns after six months, you may need to enlist the help of an infant sleep consultant.
Older kids, on the other hand, develop sleep problems that fade away within a short period. As such, parents should not only know how to identify the sleep problem but how to deal with it. In this article, we will look at common sleep problems in infants and older kids and how to address them.
1. The Baby is Not Drowsy During Bedtime
Babies hardly develop a continuous circadian rhythm until they are 12 weeks old. As such, they barely recognize the difference between nighttime and daytime hence may not be drowsy during bedtime. Many parents assume this is a development phase they need to wait out, but it is not entirely true. With the right routine, parents can attune their babies to sleep during bedtime. Here are some handy tactics:
- Include the baby in your regular activities to help set the inner clock
- Encourage the baby to wake up at the same time each morning
- Expose the baby to morning sunshine
- Limit exposure to artificial light before and during bedtime
2. The Baby Fusses About Sleeping on the Back
Naturally, babies feel more secure when they sleep on their tummies. However, this sleeping position can be dangerous as it can cause sudden infant death syndrome. Experts recommend putting the baby on their back when sleeping. Babies who don't want to settle into this position feel insecure or uncomfortable. Some tricks to lure the baby into sleeping on his back include:
- Swaddling the baby to create a sense of security
- Place a rolled-up blanket or a pillow under the mattress
- Be consistent with the sleep routine
- Rock him to sleep on his back and transfer him to the crib
When kids get to the preschool phase, they are likely to develop nightmares frequently. During this stage, kids develop vivid imaginations hence the need to avoid watching scary TV shows or stories before bedtime.
Like adults, kids have feelings and issues that manifest through dreams. When the kid wakes up after having a nightmare, reassure them, it's only a dream. Use your imagination to create a fairy story that will coax them to fall asleep. You can also set up a night light in the room to help take away their fear of the dark.
4. The Baby Falls Asleep Only When Fed
Many babies develop this problem during the early stages of development because they associate feeding with falling asleep. It should not be the case. Parents should disrupt this behavior by gradually removing the association between falling asleep and feeding. It would help if you fed the baby a few hours before bedtime and make it a routine, so the baby is not accustomed to sleeping during feeding.
Babies and kids are likely to develop the condition if their daytime habits are disrupted. Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep at night, so the child barely gets non-restorative sleep. The problem resolves after some time, but if it persists for three or more months, it can be classified as a sleep disorder.
Some causes of insomnia in kids include stress, medical problems like sleep apnea, caffeine, or anxiety. Sometimes it is a result of a distorted bedtime routine after prolonged kids' party entertainment. Whatever the reason, parents can restore a child's regular sleep routine by:
- Creating daytime habits that support nighttime rest
- Setting limits on the use of electronics
- Encourage napping for short periods
- Avoid giving caffeinated products like chocolate, soda, or coffee
- Avoid serving heavy meals an hour or two before bedtime. A light snack like a banana or warm milk should suffice
6. Baby Does Not Sleep During Nap Time
The baby may be having a restful night but finds it challenging to fall asleep during naptime. Two different parts of the brain control naptime and nighttime sleep, hence the resistance to naptime. You can adjust his bedtime, so he sleeps a little earlier or create a routine to help him fall asleep. Here are a few tips:
- Avoid holding and rocking him to sleep
- Put him to sleep when drowsy
- Set the mood for naptime like drawing the curtains to create a dark and quiet room
The condition affects kids aged 3-7 years. Sleepwalking is not just about getting out of bed; some kids sit in bed, talk, and make repetitive movements like rubbing their eyes or fumbling with clothing. Kids are often unaware of the behavior and may not remember the next morning.
Possible causes of the condition include having an irregular sleep schedule, stress, lack of enough sleep, and illness. The problem fades away after some time, so you may not need to contact a pediatrician. However, if the child develops regular incidents that cause him to feel sleepy the next day or develop risky behavior, you may need to engage a sleep specialist.
You should also remove any safety hazards like breakable or sharp objects or toys that may cause the child to trip.
Some kids struggle with bladder control at night despite using the bathroom correctly at night. The problem affects kids aged 2-4 years, but it may continue in school-going children as well. They usually grow out of the problem with time, but parents can help shorten the process without causing undue stress.
- Avoid taking lots of fluids before sleep
- Spread a plastic cover over the mattress
- Allow your child to help change the sheets
Sleep problems are common in infants and older kids. Knowing how to address them is critical to getting a restful night. Infants can be a handful in the first three months, but once you develop a routine, the baby's brain is conditioned to sleeping for long hours. The same strategy applies for older kids; however, if they are exhibiting particular sleep problems (insomnia, bedwetting, among others), you may need to examine their day time routines.
Alaska Sleep Clinic is one of the only sleep labs in Alaska with a Pediatric Medical Director, Dr. Harry Yuan, Pediatric Cardiologist. Read more about Dr.Yuan here. The great news is that if your little one has a sleep disorder, diagnosing and treating it now leads to healthy big kids and adults.