Our sleep is critical to our health, and when it comes to our children, we want to do everything possible to help set them up for success.
Insomnia doesn’t discriminate; it can take anyone as its prisoner. Children and adults alike suffer with issues getting proper sleep at night. In fact, about 1 in 10 children struggle with sleep, and up to 86 of children who are diagnosed with autism have trouble sleeping.
No one wants to watch their child suffer. It becomes even more devastating when we try to do everything we can to help but are left with no progress. If you’ve come to an impasse and aren’t sure what to do next, these tips may help you determine the best way to help your child get better sleep at night.
Identifying the problem
Parenting isn’t easy. There’s not always an obvious distinction between when your child is actually experiencing an issue and when they’re just going through a brief phase. Learning how to identify when your child is truly suffering from insomnia is the first step in helping them. Know these common symptoms to look out for:
- Trouble falling asleep
- Waking up several times throughout the night
- Rises earlier than the sun
- Trouble concentrating
- Moody behavior
- Increased appetite
- Difficulty learning new concepts
If you start to notice that the effects of your child’s lack of sleep has gone beyond just yawning a few times in the morning, you should begin addressing the issue seriously.
Understanding the cause
Once you’ve started to notice your child exhibiting common symptoms of sleep deprivation and realized the issue is chronic, your initial instinct will likely be to try to identify the culprit robbing your child of good sleep. Unfortunately, there isn’t always an obvious issue that your child can communicate with you.
For one thing, if your child is on the autism spectrum they are predisposed to experiencing less restorative sleep. While the general population spends around 23 percent of their sleep in the REM stage, children with autism only achieve REM sleep for 15 percent of the time.
There could also be additional issues at play if your child is on certain medications, such as ADHD medication which is a stimulant. Other conditions like gastrointestinal complications and anxiety could also be interfering with your child’s sleep in the middle of the night. The answer may not be clear cut, but there are a few ways you can try to improve your child’s sleep.
Resolving the issue
For children with special or more severe cases, it may be in your best interest to seek help from a licensed professional or sleep specialist for consultation on your child’s insomnia. Before going to that length, try to evaluate your child’s condition at home and see if there are simple adjustments you can make to help them get better sleep.
Start with the bedroom. Are there any issues that could be holding your child back from getting great sleep at night? Light and noise interferences are common disruptors of sound sleep. If these are issues at play, find ways to eliminate the problem by hanging up dark blackout curtains and using a white noise machine to mask background sounds at night.
Your child could also be experiencing issues getting comfortable at night. Turn the temperature down a few degrees at night for optimal sleep temperature, and make sure the bedding products at use don’t cause any sensory discomfort. Your child could also be sleeping on a bed that doesn’t offer enough support or comfort, especially if it’s an old hand-me-down bed. Find a bed better suited to your child’s needs so they can get comfortable each night.
Sometimes a child’s daily habits can interfere with their ability to rest properly at night. If your child is not active during the day and expending their energy, they will likely have trouble falling asleep. Make sure your child is getting proper exercise each day, then help them relax in the evenings to properly wind down for bedtime.
First, make sure they are avoiding caffeine, snacks, and technology usage at night as the artificial light sources stimulates the brain and disturbs the circadian rhythm. Then, give them alternative activities to enjoy in their bedtime wind down routine like coloring, reading a book, or doing a puzzle. A warm bath and some essential oils like lavender and cedarwood could also help relax your child before bedtime.
If you try all of these methods and your child is still experiencing difficulties falling or staying asleep at night, reach out to a medical professional for help. There’s nothing more important than your child’s health and wellbeing.
Author’s bio: Laurie Larson is a freelance writer who writes on home, health, and lifestyle topics. She hopes her writing helps others live a healthier and happier life!