‘Slept like a baby’: we’ve all probably used that phrase from time to time. 👶
Who doesn’t want to sleep like a baby when our little one’s make it look so inviting? Fortunately, they seem to do a lot of it. (Except for when they decide to mix things up a bit and keep us up all night.)
Before you know it, your little angel has grown into a full-blown toddler: the age group where most development occurs, including physical and behavioural changes (most commonly referred to as ‘the terrible twos’).
This age is also the time in their life when getting enough sleep is mandatory, as mood swings and tantrums can be a serious problem.
When it comes to school-aged children, a number of sleep problems can arise. There may be cause for concern if they are showing signs of sleep disorders and Parasomnias such as obstructive sleep apnea or ‘OSA’, and restless legs syndrome (RLS).
These conditions can be difficult on the mental and physical health of a child. But if your child suffers from any of these sleep disorders, it is not a knock against you as a parent, FAR FROM IT!
Finding and rooting out these medical conditions is easier said than done.
Studies suggest that most children suffer from sleep issues of some kind, and, like a driver’s license, it is the opposite of helpful for a primary school kid to have one.
All children should be given a chance to grow and learn from their mistakes! While life may not award stickers for all its lessons, learning from experience is a necessary part of mental development.
You can’t watch kids 24/7. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to help…
Here are some nifty ways you can help your bundle of joy get enough sleep.
Disclaimer alert: this isn’t an exhaustive list, and we recommend consulting a medical or psychological professional.
Consult a Sleep Doctor
For starters, it’s best to get the lowdown from your trusted paediatric sleep expert. They might have some words of wisdom, and there’s no such thing as doing too much research!
An expert’s opinion will make understanding your child’s condition easier, whether they’re showing signs of mental health problems like ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) or other issues which can influence the hours of sleep they’re getting a night.
Sure, a quick Google search will spew pages of results, particularly from reputable sources like the Australian Paediatric Society and other institutions who know what they’re talking about.
Still, nothing beats a personal examination from your trusted doctor.
For example, some people think that children snoring is cute… those little rascals! In some cases: it can be harmless, but in others, it may require medical attention.
In the worst-case scenario, snoring results from a choking hazard, when an obstruction in the throat halts breathing. Called ‘sleep apnea’, you don’t need to be a member of the Academy of Sleep Medicine to know that’s bad.
It’s more likely your child is sound asleep, but it’s worth knowing the signs and to be safe rather than sorry.
Now, we won’t get into the specifics of potential sleep solutions before you consult a professional — like adenoids removal or melatonin tablets (to name a few).
The point is, it’s better to monitor your kid’s sleeping patterns, and if you need to visit the doc, then do so.
There’s a reason most health care professionals advocate regular checkups and visits to your local paediatrician. It leads to a good night’s sleep both for your little ones and the parents. (Yep. that’s you!)
There are thousands of old wives’ tales about children out of arm’s reach (think Hansel and Gretel or Alice in Wonderland) — what to do and what not do, what parenting methods are the best.
As long as your child is in safe hands, they’re worth taking with a grain of salt. But when it comes to your child’s sleep, a doctor’s advice is your best bet.
Set a Definite Sleep Time and Commit to It
As adults, we’re not only assigned the all-important task of caring for our kid’s physical wellbeing, the mental health of children and their sleep needs are equally important (especially at such a tender age).
Watching and playing with kids can be fun BUTexhausting. They never seem to run out of energy! Even more so when you’re about to tuck them into bed. 🧸
If kids were a source of energy, they would be endlessly renewable, and there’d be no need for fossil fuels to provide us with electricity.
Teaching older children the value of good sleep habits can be just as challenging as teaching your grandma how to use a smartphone. It helps to start early! That’s why setting a consistent bedtime routine and schedule should be a priority.
For our first sleep tip:
- Try cracking down on gadgets for mum and dad, as well as the kids. A child needs great role models to look up to — and it starts with the parents.
- Besides the questionable content that a kid is exposed to when using screens, these devices emit blue light that messes with a person’s circadian rhythm, the body’s internal clock, often keeping us awake throughout the night and resulting in a bad case of daytime sleepiness.
- A child shouldn’t feel hungover (we probably want to avoid that at least until they’re teens). Poor sleep feels like that, so making sure they stick to a reasonable bedtime is necessary. (The same goes for us adults.)
- While sleep duration, in theory, is a good marker of success — it’s regular bed and wake times that constitute healthy sleep hygiene: the kind of good habits and routine a kid will take with them into adulthood.
(Night) Light Their Path
Remember how your parents spent a substantial amount of their nights checking under your bed for monsters? That’s what your kids are going through NOW, so try not to be too harsh on them!
Being scared of the dark is a fear as old as time; haunting humanity long before the invention of electricity and even fire.
There’s horror in the unknown, and even some adults have a difficult time with darkness. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, when a child wakes because of night terrors.
Fixing this problem goes beyond installing a nightlight and calling it a night.
Addressing the root cause of your child’s sleep terrors with the assistance of an expert is the best help you can provide.
Aside from professional intervention, ensuring that your little tyke’s bedroom is relaxing and conducive to sleep goes a lonnng way towards helping them face their fears.
A good mattress, more expansive windows, and better ambient lighting do wonders too! Also, letting them decorate their room to their liking helps them form a sense of identity and independence, making them comfortable in their environment at night.
Slowly easing your child into sleeping with the lights off is a delicate process that takes patience. Keeping them at ease and confident enough to sleep alone in the dark should be a milestonefor you and not a chore.
Ever wondered why horror movies with kids are so creepy? There’s something unnerving about seeing a small child acting like an adult before they have to be one.
Too early for Halloween?
Kidding aside, don’t wait ’till some ghosts or poltergeists take your place. Spend time with your toddler, especially when they’re playing. Are they easily frustrated? Can they keep focused, or do they become bored quickly?
Through toys, pillow forts, pretend sword fights and tea parties, you might get closer to your kids and see early signs of developmental problems which can affect their sleep. This way, you can face their demons before they come for you too.
Besides… hearing your kids laugh and seeing their eyes light up should be a reward in itself. Right?
Resilience Is Key
As hard as you try, parents can’t be perfect. 😇
You’re liable to make mistakes here and there, and contrary to fairytales (and some nosy types telling you how to raise your baby), young children are not as fragile as Humpty Dumpy. However, bruises and scrapes are easy to spot and nurse, while mental health problems aren’t.
Paying close attention to your kid is one sure way to make sure they don’t go through it alone.
Sleep is the one thing children will always have a hard time getting the hang of at first go. As the old saying goes: ‘If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.’
With patient and loving parents to guide them, your child can conquer the world!