Adults aren’t the only people who suffer from stress, anxiety and not enough rest. In many cases, all of these things could be linked, and it is something that parents should certainly look out for when it comes to monitoring their child’s sleeping patterns. There are plenty of things that can affect a kid’s quality of sleep, and these issues can have consequences. Lack of sleep is something that should be taken seriously, especially since it can lead to decreased concentration at school, a weakened immune system, an increased risk of obesity and weight-gain, moodiness, and much more.
Take a good look at your child’s sleeping patterns. Do they have any quirks or habits like snoring or sleep walking? Are they tired every morning and often fatigued during the day? Here are some of the biggest sleep issues that affect children of different ages, as well as what you can do to help rectify the problem.
Stress and Anxiety
Children are still learning, growing and becoming individuals, and there are plenty of hardships that come along with that. A child’s worries can range from present factors, like school stress, making friends or bullying, to real world what-ifs like the possibility of a fire or a burglar trying to break into your home.
Signs of stress and anxiety in children often involve staying awake despite their tiredness as well as a general restlessness when they do manage to get some sleep. Kids who worry or feel afraid may also ask for extra one-on-one time before bed or even ask to sleep with you before sleeping or during the night.
Working through stress is important, and as a parent it’s vital that you do not belittle their worries. Instead, try to help them channel their anxieties and worries in other ways. Encourage them to keep a journal. Writing can help kids empty their heads before bed, plus it helps them learn to work through their emotions and feelings. Also consider reading a book before bed, whether you read together or they read on their own, to help get their mind off things before drifting off to sleep.
Sleep apnea is a condition that affects a person’s intake of oxygen while they sleep. In children, sleep apnea is often caused by oversized tonsils, adenoids, or even chronic sinus infections that affect how well they breathe while they sleep. Sleep apnea often causes loud or excessive snoring, but it can also cause restless sleep and frequent waking in the middle of the night.
The only way to accurately diagnose sleep apnea is to visit a lab, but it’s important that parents pay attention to sleeping patterns in order to diagnose the issue. Treatment aims to help improve breathing and may involve tonsil removal, sinus medication, or other options.
Sedentary Screen Time
Just as with adults, kids who don’t move around much or spend too much time in front of a screen may suffer from a lack of fulfilling sleep as a result. Not getting enough exercise has many other side effects as most people are aware, but it can also affect how well you sleep. Plus, lack of sleep can contribute just as much to weight gain and risk for obesity as remaining relatively sedentary does. But no matter how active or inactive your day was, it’s important that children refrain from looking at any bright screens before bed – and the same goes for adults. Studies have shown that the stimulation inspired by watching TV, looking at your phone or playing on your tablet can interfere with quality of sleep. So many experts suggest planning at least an hour’s worth of screen-free time before bed. Make getting ready for bed a habit – such as turn off all devices, brush teeth and change into pajamas, and plan a screen-free activity, whether it is reading or simple conversation to help you, and your children, power down and get ready for a good night’s rest.
According to Karen Ballaban-Gil, MD, a pediatric neurologist at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in NYC says that 20-40% of school-age kids sleepwalk on occasion. This is usually caused by an incomplete sleep-stage transition, causing the brain to remain asleep while the body is capable of getting up and moving around. Sleepwalking can be dangerous, especially since kids are unaware of their actions and parents may not be around to monitor them.
When it comes to spotting sleepwalking, parents can usually see signs if they go to sleep later than their children normally do since sleepwalking often occurs during the first few hours of sleep. Sleepwalking also tends to run in families, so if you, your spouse, or anyone else in the family has been known to sleepwalk in the past, it is definitely something you should watch out for in your kids.
For the most part, kids will outgrow this tendency – but it is absolutely imperative that parents make sure they are aware of the situation and that they create safe spaces for their children in the event that they sleepwalk. Make sure their rooms are clean and that the floor is clear of any hazards. Put bars on windows, child-proof areas like the bathroom or kitchen, and make sure that you keep an eye on them or an ear out for them when you can. If you catch your child sleepwalking, gently guide them back to bed as much as you can. If it becomes a common occurrence, be sure to discuss it with your child’s pediatrician to look out for any underlying causes and other solutions.
Final Thoughts: Children need sleep, just like the rest of us. Without a good night’s rest, kids can suffer from a plethora of problems physically, mentally, at school, and in other aspects of their lives. Children ages 5-12 should generally get around 10-11 hours of sleep per night. Teenagers, on the other hand, generally need 8-10, but it is also important to pay attention to your child’s sleeping habits, needs and other behaviors. Sometimes, kids (and adults) may rest better when they sleep at certain times or for a specific number of hours. No matter what, it is important that kids get the recommended amount of sleep for the sake of their health and their overall well being.