Many children have sleep problems at a certain stage of their development. We think of problems like: talking in sleep, nightmares, having trouble falling asleep, not daring to sleep without light etcetera. These are often problems of a temporary nature, which change again. It is generally assumed that these problems are part of the development of the child. Only when the sleeping problems begin to affect the child’s functioning (for example because the child falls asleep at school) or affect the rest of the family (for example because the child keeps his parents awake with his howling) spent on these problems by providing assistance (general practitioner, consultation office, psychologist, etc.).
This is very unfortunate, because temporary sleeping problems can also have many unpleasant consequences. A child who has problems sleeping, has a big impact on the family and can cause a lot of stress. It often keeps his family members awake and requires a lot of attention from his / her parents. The knowledge that the complaints will pass again does not change the fatigue of the parents and the child now.
The most familiar with many parents is problems with falling asleep because the child does not want to go to bed. The following example will be familiar to many parents.
Simon of seven is brought to bed. He starts to protest when he goes upstairs. “But I want to watch TV for a while, I’m not tired yet.” Once Simon is in bed, he begins to cry as soon as his mother walks away. After a minute or five he gets out of bed. “Mom, I really can not sleep.” Simon is brought back to bed. Simon keeps up this behavior for the rest of the evening and only falls asleep at 11 o’clock. The next day he can hardly wake up and he is tired and irritable. For weeks this goes on and Simon’s parents do not know what to do anymore.
It is different for every child, but many children do not want to go to bed any more at the moment when they are expected to do so. This is often a part of growing up. Part of the development of a personal personality and independence. It is also often a way to get extra attention. Parents have a major influence on the sleep patterns of their child. They can contribute to both the development and the maintenance of sleep problems. The reaction of the parents to the sleeping behavior of their child is therefore very important. By giving the child attention when it cries or whines when it has to go to bed, he / she is rewarded for the behavior and he / she will show this behavior the next time. For example, a parent can reward a child who is troubles a few times for his behavior and thus create sleep problems.
In that case, the best method to prevent behavior is not paying attention. The parent must be clear and consistent when sending to bed. It must be clear to the child that he / she must go to sleep and that whining or crying does not make sense.
Sleep problems often arise as a result of stress and anxiety. This stress can occur as a result of an event that changes the life of the child, but also through daily frustrations. A child who has to undergo a major operation or whose parents get divorced often develops problems with sleeping. Often these problems are temporary and disappear without anything being done about it. They disappear when the stress situation is over. But if the parents have given extra attention to the child during the period of sleep problems, these problems will not disappear. A bad habit arises.
Again, giving no attention is the best solution.
Frequently this type of problem also occurs because the child is still too restless to go to sleep. It is good to let him / her do something quiet half an hour before bedtime. When the child is still busy playing, indicate that it is five minutes bedtime. He / she then has time to end the game himself. In addition, a routine for bedtime is important. Doing a number of things before going to bed in a fixed order helps the child to settle down. It also gives a clear message: it is now time to go to sleep. Simon’s parents did this as follows:
At half past eight Simon goes upstairs. He brushes his teeth and puts on his pajamas. Then he goes to bed and reads to his mother a chapter from a book Simon can choose. After this his father comes up to give a kiss. His parents wish him good night and leave together. They have agreed with Simon that he will stay in bed. When he can not sleep he starts to invent a story or think about the next day. Simon cried the first evenings but after a few evenings he stopped. After two weeks he went to bed without problems and slept well.
For children with sleep problems it is important that they see their bedroom as comfortable and safe. Parents are therefore strongly advised not to send these children to their rooms as punishment, because the bedroom is then associated with feelings of fear. The child has to learn to only link his bed to sleep. Sometimes it is advised to send the child to bed when it is really tired, it does not have to lie awake in bed. Slowly the child can be brought to bed earlier because lying in bed is going to sleep.
But there is also a completely different kind of sleep problem. The child just goes to sleep but wakes up during the night. This often wakes up together with anxiety, confusion and panic. Regularly there is then a nightmare. Nightmares are often about fear of attack, fall or death. In general, nightmares are an ordinary part of the development of the child. Parents can try to eliminate the fear by talking to their child about it
But there does not always have to be nightmares. Children can also suffer from night fears. In this case, the child suddenly wakes up from sleep with a scream and shows intense fear. There does not seem to be a bad dream. The child is difficult to comfort and is usually very confused. It does not seem to know where it is, talks slowly and reacts slowly. An example:
Edith went to sleep at night. She wakes up with a shriek at one o’clock at night. When her mother goes to see her, she sits up in her bed crying. She makes a confused impression. Her mother tries to comfort her, but it seems Edith does not notice her. She does not respond to what her mother says. Her gaze stares a bit in the distance and she keeps her eyes half closed. After a minute or five she calms down and falls asleep again. Edith can not remember anything the next morning.
Treatment is not necessary in this sleep problem as the child outgrows this disorder. The best way to deal with these temporary problems is generally: reward and stimulation of normal sleep behavior and decrease of parents’ attention to these fears.
A sleep problem that sometimes occurs in children is sleepwalking. This can vary from just sitting in bed to really walking around. The child is very difficult to wake up and when it wakes up it is confused. Causes of sleepwalking can be: fever, lack of sleep, certain medications, etc., but often there is no cause. In general, only safety measures are taken so that the child can not injure himself, since it also outgrows this disorder. A simple stair gate can prevent the child from falling asleep from the stairs.
suspected during the day due to lack of sleep
A very obvious problem with sleep disorders is fatigue. School children in particular can function less well, have difficulty with concentration and lagging behind at school. As a result, learning problems can occur. In addition, behavioral problems are more often seen in these children, which in reality are only an expression of fatigue.
Other sleep disorders can make the child very anxious and insecure. Many children can not remember their night fear, but they do have a sense of confusion, fear and uncertainty when they wake up. Nightmares are remembered and especially recurrent nightmares can make the child very anxious. This fear causes the child to become very tense and often does not want to go to sleep, which also causes fatigue and insomnia problems
The parents are thrown back and forth between feelings of anxiety and feelings of anger and irritation. For the child this is very confusing and often the child feels guilty and anxious. Especially the feelings of anger can really upset him / her because he / she feels that he has no control over the sleeping behavior. Because of this confusion the parents are worried again and the child gets attention again.
Marriage problems also appear to occur more often between parents with a child with a sleep problem. Due to the sleep problems, the time that parents used to do in the evening was cut short because the child stays up or requires constant attention. A child who sleeps with his parents five days a week can also have a negative effect on the relationship between the parents. The parents simply have less time for each other.
Fatigue also plays an important role in the stress within the family. The child not only keeps himself awake but also his family members. A child who only goes to bed late is generally not a problem in this area because the child usually goes to bed earlier when the parents go to bed. But a child with nightmares or a child who is always awake at night can disturb the sleep of his family members. This creates stress within the family and often also friction and quarrels. It can be very stressful for the parents to have a child with night fears or nightmares. The child wakes up in the middle of the night with great anxiety and can not be reached easily and can not be comforted. In general, the child will calm down automatically after a few minutes. The parents often have the idea of doing something wrong because they feel that they can do nothing to take away the fear of their child.
A problem that not only occurs with this disorder but very often occurs when a child has a problem within a family, the problem is that the other children within the family often receive less attention. The child with the problem requires extra attention and generally gets this too. The other children in the family can also start showing problem behavior in order to gain attention.
Sleep problems, a serious business
Sleep problems in children are often considered a normal part of the development of the child. Usually this is also true. But as described above, sleep problems can have many consequences for the child and the family. And then the problems the child has are no longer a normal part of the development and it may be necessary to ask for help or advice. I think it is very important for parents to consider longer sleep problems in children as a serious problem. see and not only as part of the development of the child. Parents can do a lot to help their child sleep better and sleep better.