Sleep Disorders, Sleep Remedies & Insomnia Relief


Disruptive Sleep in Children: 6 Causes

There are six common causes of disruptive sleep in children and these include sleep deprivation, night waking, sleep-onset associations, separation issues, resistance to sleep/settling problems and parasomnias. Letís take a brief look at each one of these.

Any sleep disorder can lead to sleep deprivation which can affect a childís physical and mental health as well as his/her performance in school and in other social activities. Sleep deprivation among children is becoming more and more commonplace in our society, to its detriment as it has many debilitating effects on an otherwise healthy childís life.

Night waking refers to times when a child sleeps lightly and/or wakes up without an obvious reason such as discomfort or a loud noise. This is normal if it happens occasionally, as, just like adults, children cannot remain in deep sleep every hour of the night. However when night waking starts becoming the norm or the child consistently has problems falling asleep then treatment is needed.

Sleep-onset associations refer to what children associate with drifting off to sleep (such as being rocked to sleep by a parent or sucking on a soother) and what they also need if they should awaken suddenly in the night. The most positive sleep-onset associations are the ones that donít include parents or anyone else for that matter. To encourage a good nightís sleep for your child, put them to bed when they are sleepy but not completely asleep yet. By putting your child in his/her bed when they are drowsy but still technically awake, they are learning to become independent by going to sleep by themselves. This helps to foster self-confidence in children and a sense of accomplishment. Children with moody or temperamental dispositions generally need the comfort of sleep-onset associations even more so than other children do. The most common problem for disruptive sleep in children is sleep-onset associations.

Separation issues (or separation anxiety) occur most often in children under the age of three. By the time a child reaches eight or nine months old, he/she has come to understand that mom and dad are still around even if they canít see them at that precise moment in time. However it takes a couple more years for their confidence to build about being alone. As a parent you will know that separation anxiety is the cause of your childís sleeping disorder if they quickly drift back to sleep once you have calmed their fears. Some parents experience separation anxiety from their children and find themselves looking in on them frequently throughout the night.

Sometimes children have a resistance to what is known as ďsleep/settling.Ē Basically this means a child who for one reason or another does not want to go to bed and demonstrates this by throwing a tantrum complete with screaming and feet stamping, or consistently thinks of excuses for why he or she is not ready for bed just yet. This can also be seen by kids who simply say to their mothers, ďIím not going to bed because I donít want to.Ē

Parasomnias are sleep-related problems that interrupt proper sleep patterns and include such things as night terrors, nightmares, teeth grinding (bruxism) and bed wetting. If not kept in check, any one of these problems can develop into more serious concerns for both parent and child.

There are other reasons why children have disrupted sleep. Some are very simple and easy to remedy while others are more serious and would require a visit to their doctor. Some children wake up during the night because they are wearing a pair of uncomfortable pajamas and/or are wearing nightwear that has scratchy tags that are irritating their skin; others wake up because of itching from pinworms and discomfort wakes up some children, whether it be in the form of the child having wet their bed, being too cold, too hot, thirsty, hungry or they have to use the toilet. Yet other reasons include a noise that wakes the child; an allergy or food insensitivity; gastro-esophageal reflux (GER); a bladder infection causing pain and/or a constant need to urinate; allergens in the air and finally, pain from an earache, stomach ache or teeth growing in. Never discount any of these problems but address them as soon as they occur so they donít develop into something worse.

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