Why Is Sleep Important for Children?

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Sleep is very important for children as it plays a crucial role in their development. Research shows that sleep directly affects happiness, alertness, attention, cognitive performance, mood, resiliency, vocabulary acquisition, learning, and memory. For toddlers, napping is necessary for memory consolidation, executive attention, and motor skill development. Sleep also has significant effects on growth, especially in early infancy


What Happens When Children Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

Children who don't get enough sleep can become grumpy or hyperactive, which can mimic ADHD symptoms. It can also affect their ability to concentrate and perform well in school. About 25% of children under five do not get enough sleep, which can lead to immune system problems, allergic rhinitis, anxiety, and depression. Poor sleep during childhood may also increase the risk of future cardiovascular problems. In adolescents, chronic sleep deprivation can affect academic performance and mental health, and it's a risk factor for substance abuse and car accidents.


How to Make Sure Your Child Gets a Full Night’s Sleep

It's important to ensure that your child gets a good night's sleep. You can achieve this by providing them with a healthy diet, setting the thermostat to a slightly cooler temperature, using dark curtains to block out light, or a nightlight if they're scared of the dark. Additionally, it's important to keep the bedroom quiet, or use a white noise machine to mask outside sounds. Avoid giving your child caffeine, large meals, or sugary treats before bedtime. Instead, opt for a healthy bedtime snack if necessary.

While it's important to give your child regular exercise, it's essential not to exhaust them to have them sleep better at night. More often than not, this will make them overtired and actually make it harder for them to fall asleep. Therefore, it's important to recognise the special level of hyper that means your toddler is too tired, so you can put them to bed before things turn sour.


Sleep Advice For Infants

Bedtime routines can be challenging, especially for families with two parents or siblings who share a bedroom. When it comes to babies, it's important to note that they haven't yet developed a circadian rhythm, and as a result, they may not sleep through the night, which is perfectly normal. If your baby wakes up and can't fall back asleep, try to calm them down by talking to them or touching them gently, without picking them up. If they continue to cry, it's possible that they're hungry or need a diaper change. Address the issue quickly and quietly, using only a nightlight if possible, and then leave the room calmly.


Sleep Advice For Toddlers

Toddlers have a sleep schedule that includes napping during the day. However, they may experience sleep problems due to separation anxiety and fear of missing out. This can lead to stalling and stubbornness at bedtime. To reduce these issues, you can let your child make minor choices like picking their pajamas or choosing a bedtime book. It's important to be patient, firm, and loving as power struggles can make the situation worse.


What Are Some of the Most Common Sleep Problems in Children?

Children's sleep can be affected by various factors such as a new sibling, teething, illness, a different place, a new caregiver, a change in schedule, or minor complaints like allergies, colds, and ear infections. These common problems can cause sleep disorders, which are intricately intertwined with mental and physical health issues. As many as 50% of children suffer from sleep disorders at some point in their lives. Some sleep disorders are not evident to the sleeper, or they may mirror other conditions such as epilepsy, making them difficult to diagnose.


Night Terrors and Nightmares

Night terrors and nightmares are common sleep disorders in children. Nightmares occur during REM sleep and can be frightening for toddlers who have a harder time distinguishing what's real and what's not, while night terrors occur in non-REM sleep. Your child may scream and bolt upright during a night terror, but they won't usually wake up or remember the incident in the morning. If your child has a nightmare, offer reassurance and put them back to sleep. During a night terror, keep them safe and in bed. If sleep disorders are frequent or causing daytime sleepiness, consult a paediatrician as they can affect the child's mental and physical health.


Sleep Talking and Sleepwalking

Sleep talking and sleepwalking are common parasomnias. Sleep talking is harmless but can disturb others. Sleepwalking is common among children and can have serious consequences. Safety-proofing the bedroom and installing alarms can be useful.


Snoring and Sleep Apnoea

Children snore occasionally like adults, caused by allergies, swollen tonsils or adenoids, obesity, or second-hand smoke. Excessive snoring or gasping for breath points towards sleep apnoea, leading to disrupted breathing and frequent waking at night. Sleep deprivation signs include daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and hyperactivity. Consult a paediatrician if you notice these symptoms to reduce them.

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