Let me tell you my story about my childhood. My home was far from the school. I got up at 5.30 a.m. and left home for the 8 a.m. school. I got to bed at 8.30. I recalled I was not fresh, but fuzzy and not energetic in joining day activities with friends in school and neighborhood. I was perceived being a quiet and shy. When I was in the elementary school in grade 5 to 6, as I could recall, I was drowsy and sleepy in the classroom. It is likely that I had 9-hour sleep which is the least sufficiency for my age. Unfortunately, I did not have good quality 9-hour sleeping.
Children sleep problems affect their social life. Children with inadequate sleep will have daytime sleepiness and affect their school learning and exams. Parents should be able to identify the symptoms and understand the underlying cause for helping their children.
Sleep Hours for Children
Total sleep hours Includes daytime nap hours.
- 0 – 3 months: 14 – 17 hours
- 4 -11 months: 12 – 15 hours
- 1 – 2 years: 11 – 14 hours
- 3 – 5 years: 10 – 13 hours
- 6 -13 years: 9 – 11 hours
Suggested Daytime Nap for Children
Babies 0-1 year-old sleep twice as much at irregular intervals. When they grow older from 2 year-old, intervals begin to consolidate and total sleep time begins to decrease.
- 2 years: 1 – 3 hours nap (1 nap)
- 3 years: 1 – 3 hours nap (1 nap)
- 4 years: 0 – 2.5 hours nap (0-1 nap)
- 5 years: 0 – 2.5 hours nap (0-1 nap)
- 6 years: None
Growth Hormone Released During Sleep
Growth hormone is normally released by the brain into the bloodstream during sleep. The growth hormone promotes growth in childhood, which has functionality to maintain, repair, and restore healthy body tissue even during adulthood. Moreover, the growth hormone promotes a healthy metabolism, enhances physical performance, and may help you live longer.
The hormone is a complex protein produced by the pituitary gland in the brain during stage 3 sleep. If a child does not have sufficient sleep, growth hormone is suppressed. Timing of sleep stages is relative to the amount of hormone released during sleep. The best way to increase growth hormone levels is getting high-quality sleep and uninterrupted sleep each night.
I have learnt and experienced that the child who had adequate quality sleep during the childhood appeared taller and has better learning performance than the child who has less sleep. As a parent, we will help our child grow healthy, longevity with success.
Six Signs of Sleep Problems In Children
It may be not easy for parents to discover their children may have a sleep problem. Due to financial or family situations, not all mothers stay home raising their children or they go to work when the children turning one year old. Nevertheless, when children go to child care centres, kindergartens, or schools, caregivers or teachers may be the other persons who observe the symptoms.
Children sleep disorders may not be severe as adults. However, they have degrees of severity depends on types of sleep problem. The good side is majority of them can be treated. It is important that parents have ideas on how much sleep they should be getting for their age and understand how to identify sleep troubles in children.
The best for children is when parents recognize the signs of sleep problems or sleep disorders in children and most importantly understand the underlying causes, they can be treated the right ways and sooner. Parents or caregivers will address the issues when discover the following sings of sleep problems.
Snoring is a sound caused by vibration in the upper airway which may be not harmful as it is in adult. Many common causes are nasal congestion, respiratory infections, enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids. However, frequent snoring in children should not be ignored. That may involve with Sleep Apnea or other health problems.
2. Breathing pauses during sleep
The studies revealed minimal of children who snore have sleep apnea. If this happens to your child, it is strongly recommended to meet your family doctor. The blockage of airway can lead to inadequate oxygen for lungs and brains which affect the child’s growth, memory, and cognition.
3. Trouble sleeping through the night
When children have difficulties in going to sleep or stay asleep or wake up much earlier than normal, that could be a sign of insomnia. Many factors of children insomnia include stress from schoolwork, family issues, environment changes, or physical pain.
4. Difficulty staying awake during the day
When children get enough sleep at night and feel drowsiness during the day, this may be a sleep disorder of Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS). EDS may be caused by sleep apnea and narcolepsy.
5. Unexplained decrease in daytime performance
Teachers can tell parents about children’s performance. Parents can notice their inactive children with no reasons. Parents should not blame children but to find out the causes of problems may involve sleep disorders.
6. Unusual events during sleep
Unusual events during sleep such as nightmare, sleepwalking, bed wetting, and night terrors.
5 Main Factors of Sleep Problems in Children
Similar to adults, children sleep orders may be triggered by one of these factors.
Children may have sleep problems due to side effects of ear infection, allergy, asthma, and skin allergy. Normal symptoms are a pain, nausea, itchy, nasal congestion, or mucous at night that interrupts sleepiness.
Psychiatric and brain-related issues
Hard sleep in children may involve seizer affecting the child’s nerve system. Children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea) have more sleep problems. Anxiety in children also causes hard sleep due to worrying about something.
Medication for healing illness, pain, seizer, or allergy raise side effect of insomnia. Some medications have properties to stimulate nerve systems and cause hard sleep. Using medication for a long period may cause chronic insomnia in children.
Behavior sleep problems
Children 1-5 years old who cannot sleep by themselves due to lack of proper sleep training. Parents or caregiver may always rock them before sleeping, allow pacifier during sleep, or bottle feed for sleeping. When not having the things they usually have, they may cry or scream and resist to sleep.
Most sleep problems in children are caused by problems with how they behave. Behavior problems disturb their sleep. Parents can solve these problems with sleep training for children. Here are common behavioral sleep problems
- Difficult behavior about the time to go to bed.
- Difficult setting into sleep due to excitements before bedtime from playing games.
- Circumstances change, such as moving, family upsets, starting school after the holiday.
- Wake up at night, not stay in their own bed and/or get up in the morning with inadequate sleep for doing favorite activities.
Environment involves noise, temperature, light, and delayed sleep time. Parents can manage quite, cool temperature, and dark environment for children. Inconsistent sleep schedule also cause sleep problems.
10 Tricks Help High-Quality Sleep for Children
Parents could be the best persons helping children having quality and adequate sleep. Children may not realize the importance of sleep and small children do not realize the difference of day and night. They are energetic and easily aroused by many things.
My experience with my children is parents patiently talk and train them with kind and calm manners. They may not truly understand and I believe children can absorb and learn from parents’ samples, consistency, and persistence day by day. You can start sleep training with your children as soon as possible, from 6 months old.
Here are tricks improve high quality sleep for children
- Establish a regular sleep schedule. This is the natural way your child will learn and understand when it is time to sleep. If necessary, bedtime should not vary by more than an hour between school and non-school nights. The same goes for the time your child wakes up.
- Organize a bedtime routine. Having the same routine before bed each night will help children prepare for sleep. In the half-hour before bed, prepare a calm environment, no active games, TV, internet, computer games, and a smart phone. Reading a book or having a bath or shower will help calm the nerve.
- Arrange a comfortable bedroom. The bedroom should be quiet, cool, and dark. Help your child sees the bedroom is for sleeping, not for entertainment, playing, or other activities. The night light is fine for some children and adjusts to dark whenever they are ready.
- No heavy meals within two hours before going to bed. If needed, a small snack or a cup of milk can help ease of sleep.
- Avoid caffeine that causes hard sleep. Soft drinks like cola contain caffeine make it harder to sleep.
- Arrange proper length and time for a daytime nap, depends on the child’s age. Small children need daytime nap during the day. A 2-3 years old child needs one 1-3 hours nap, and 4-5 years old child needs 0-2.5 hours hap. When they grow older approximately six years old, a daytime nap is not recommended. Long-time nap after 3 pm can be harder to get to sleep at night.
- Having exercise and outdoor activities during the day. This will promote good sleep at night and healthiness. However, avoid heavy exercise three hours before bedtime.
- Avoid rocking, cuddle, feeding before bed for small children and train children to sleep by themselves. Talk calmly and gently with the child it is time to sleep, we love you.
- Avoid visiting when they cry during sleep. Wait for 15 minutes (watch the clock), if they cry longer than 15 minutes, you may examine if there are other problems with the child.
- Applaud, encouragement, and rewarding will improve the child’s morale for sleep success, such as giving a Star for a good self-sleep.
The most important tactic is your patience. You must be consistent with a sleep schedule and realize the importance of environment, bedtime routine, activities, and food that can improve or discourage quality of your child’s sleep. Keep in mind that you can promote children morale with your kindness, gentleness, and love. We will not fight for the time to sleep but to encourage and reward when children improve and succeed.
What can you do if the tricks do not work?
Be patient with sleep training for your child. It may take a month to help them sleep overnight by themselves. If you cannot deal with longer sleep training or you are not sure about why your child has a sleep problem, do not worry too much. You will consult a pediatrician or a Sleep Professional who will help you find out what is the real problem with your child.
If you think the child may suffer from illness or specific sleep problems such as snoring or sleep apnea, and frequent sleep nightmare, sleep terror, sleepwalking, bruxism, or bedwetting, it is important to consult with your doctor for identifying the problems and treat them as soon as possible.
The Bottom Line
By the time you finish reading this page, you may think it is difficult to help the child sleep when you follow the tricks. Each child is unique and different. You will learn about your child better with your observation, support, and help. Remember that parents must have good sleep and healthy to be able to help the child. Further than that, parents can get help from a sleep professional who understand your situations and has so much experience dealing with children sleep disorders.
If you have comments or would like to share your experience, please feel free to leave them below or email me at Priscilla@TreatmentOfSleepDisorders.com. I would be happy to hear from you.
All the best for your children,