Sleeping like a baby – it’s what we all strive for when our heads hit the pillow
Getting a good night’s rest is not always that easy.
While many adults have suffered from sleeping problems, it might surprise those adults to learn that kids can suffer those very same problems. Though they might not have bills or stress from their jobs, kids can still find it difficult to sleep at night. The following sleeping disorders aren't exclusive to adults and could negatively impact a child's ability to get a good night's rest.
Insomnia: This disorder is classified as trouble falling asleep or maintaining sleep. Stress and depression are two underlying causes of insomnia in children. Oftentimes poor sleep habits, such as inconsistent sleep schedules, falling asleep outside of the bed and others can worsen insomnia. To help kids cope with insomnia, parents should cut off caffeine consumption four to six hours before bedtime. Other options include serving lighter dinners, eliminating nap time or reducing nap length (an hour or less) and reserving the bed for sleeping, not hanging out and watching television or doing homework.
Night terrors: Night terrors are similar to nightmares and typically occur in children between the ages of 3 to 12. Characterized by periods of intense crying and fear, an average episode lasts one to two minutes (though an episode can continue for up to 30 minutes). However, night terrors are typically not recalled by the child the next day.
Night terrors can be especially hard on everyone involved, as a child will appear genuinely terrified even though they are asleep. Frequent and recurring, night terrors are also often accompanied by an elevated heart rate, an increased breathing rate and heavy sweating. While there is no uniform cause of night terrors, stressful life events, fever, trouble sleeping and certain medications that affect the nervous system might be causes.
Sleepwalking (somnambulism): Somnambulism is the technical term for “sleepwalking.” A sleepwalking episode is when a child sits up in bed with their eyes open, but in reality is not seeing anything. Children can remain in bed during an episode, or get up and walk around. Episodes are more common in male school-aged children and some episodes might include a child actually leaving the home.
Certain things act as indicators of a sleepwalking episode, which can take parents by surprise. Glassy eyes that are more fixated than attentive and a blank stare in the eyes, as opposed to normal eye movement, are two common symptoms. When speaking to a child who is sleepwalking, parents can expect a response to be slow and not necessarily coherent. Similar to night terrors, a child is not likely to recall a sleepwalking episode unless he or she is woken up while it’s going on.
Nocturnal Enuresis: Typically a normal part of bladder control development, nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting) is common among children ages 4 and under. Primary nocturnal enuresis, however, is bedwetting that occurs in children over the age of 5 or 6. In such cases, children cannot consistently stay dry at night, and this could be the result of several factors.
Since bedwetting is not an intentional act, it might be due to delayed growth and development, low levels of ADH (antidiuretic hormone), social or psychological factors or simply a small bladder capacity. In some cases, children sleep so soundly they simply don't wake up when they need to relieve themselves.
Sleeping disorders are never intentional, as no child wants to have trouble sleeping. Punishment or shaming children will not help the problem, and could very well make it worse. Instead, consult your child's physician if you suspect your child has a sleeping disorder.
Sleeping disorders, including insomnia, night terrors and sleepwalking, can prevent kids from getting the rest they need.