Sleep is important for everyone and whilst we can go for short periods of time without much sleep if it continues on a long term basis then this can cause problems for the whole family. Long-term effects of not having enough sleep will result in poor memory, reduced immune function, irritability, mood swings, school performance etc.
We all need sleep to renew and restore our bodies, children especially because they are still growing and developing.
There are different types of sleep disorders which fall into three categories:-
- Insomnia, sleeplessness
- Hypersomnia – sleeping too much
I mostly see parents of children who are experiencing episodic sleep problems and insomnia. One thing to note is like adults, the amounts of sleep required by each individual will vary from child to child, although it is thought that a child from 1-5 will require 10-12 hours per day. Newborns obviously sleep much more and usually wake every 2-3 hours for a feed.
It is quite normal for a child to have trouble sleeping due to excitement possibly around Christmas or birthday time, a holiday or due to something they may have seen on TV that they may have found upsetting. It can also be due to not feeling well such as teething, colic, earache, fevers etc. All these should hopefully pass in a couple of days and is manageable, but what if it doesn’t? This can become a problem especially if it is allowed to continue and bad sleeping habits are established.
It is thought that at some point 40% of children will experience a sleep problem and again the reasons can vary between each child. Sleep problems can start at any age and can be triggered from a variety of reasons, such as separation anxiety, starting nursery or school, pressure from tests and exams that they might have to take or the new arrival of a sibling. All these things can contribute to sleep problems.
So what can be done? It is important to establish a good routine and to do the same things in the same order, things that can help are:-
- A warm bath
- Read a story cuddled up with your child
- A warm milky drink
- Make them comfortable and tuck them up with their favourite toy and/or blanket
- Have a nightlight on especially if the child has developed a fear of the dark
From the ages of 3-5 years some children may wake from a bad dream or night terrors (these will not be remembered). It is important to soothe them but to avoid asking about any bad dreams because this will mean they will go back to sleep quicker.
Homeopathy really helps children with any problems that they are experiencing. Children are very responsive to the remedies, which are all gentle, non-toxic and safe.