Some parents tend to undervalue the amount and quality of their children’s sleep when, in fact, almost 30 to 40 percent of children lack quality sleep, contributing to their poor performance not only in school but in their daily lives. They tend to misbehave and have trouble paying attention.
Common Causes of Sleep Problems among Children
There are different reasons why children don’t get enough sleep. Physical problems like snoring and the lifestyle of the child or the family may affect the child’s sleep. Behavioral problems too like hyperactivity may affect the length and quality of sleep.
In order to find out if your child is lacking sleep, observe for signs of daytime sleepiness like rubbing the eyes, yawning, acting out and trouble paying attention. If you observe snoring, find out if it’s temporary (from a cold or flu) or if it occurs on a regular basis.
How much sleep a child needs generally depends on the age of the child. Preschoolers for example need 11 to 12 hours while elementary-age children need about 10 hours. Adolescents need nine to nine-and-a-half hours of sleep.
Snoring can disrupt a child’s trip to dreamland. Snoring may indicate that he or she has a breathing problem. Worse, this causes sleep apnea – an unhealthy condition that disrupts breathing during the night briefly, causing the child to awaken at intervals unconsciously. Blocked nasal passages from allergy and infection and adenotonsillar hypertrophy could cause snoring. Adenotonsillar hypertrophy is a condition which means the tonsils and adenoids are abnormally large. Asthma can also cause sleep apnea.
The fluid intake prior to bed actually affects your children’s sleep. Drinking too many fluids can mean frequent trips to the bathroom and diaper changes in the middle of the night. Infants should only be nursed once or two times every night while those who are five to six months old only require eight ounces of fluid every night.
How to Help Your Child Sleep Better
As a parent, you can easily monitor your child’s behavior and activities that may affect his sleeping habits. Here are some ways you can help him sleep better at night.
Remove caffeine in your child’s diet because it makes it harder for children to fall asleep. Caffeine remains in the body for eight to 12 hours. Limit TV, radio, computer and video games and large meals before bedtime. Also, ensure that your child gets plenty of exercise and keep the temperature at 65 degrees. Establish an evening routine for your child like a 30-minute quiet time before bedtime to wind down from the day’s activities. Don’t put a television in your child’s bedroom.
Give your child warm milk as this contains tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes sleep. Prepare a large breakfast, a medium lunch and a small dinner because digesting a big dinner can prevent your child from resting comfortably. Include carbohydrates in your dinner because it stimulates the body to produce serotonin- a sleep-inducing hormone.
Remember, adequate quality sleep is vital to a child’s development in as much as a healthy diet and plenty of exercise.