Children are sometimes subject to the same sleep disruptions as adults, with potentially serious consequences. Fortunately, there are many ways to improve your child's sleep.
Being Attentive to Sleep Hygiene
Sleep professionals sometimes refers to the habits surrounding sleep as "sleep hygiene". This includes the important behaviors in the period of time just prior to falling asleep, which should be a time of relaxation.
Eliminating Distractions from the Bedroom
Perhaps the most important consideration for children is to address elements in the sleep environment that may be disruptive to sleep. How can your child sleep well if there are other engaging activities available at his or her whim?
Children require a consistent, relaxing bedtime routine, just like adults. Part of this requires that parents recognize the importance of sleep and that they be willing to set some boundaries.
Some of the disruptive activities that should be eliminated from the bedroom environment include:
- Watching television
- Talking on the telephone
- Computer use
- Electronic gaming
These and other similar activities may keep your children awake and affect their ability to transition to sleep. As much as possible, the bedroom should be reserved for sleeping.
Consequences of Poor Sleep Habits
Children are especially susceptible to consequences of sleep disruption. They may be more likely to have hyperactive behavior, difficulties with attention, and poor impulse control. They are also less likely than adults to appear sleepy when deprived of sleep, so it can be difficult to tell that they haven't been sleeping enough. Studies have shown that injury rates among preschool-aged and early school-aged children are significantly higher in those with sleep disorders than in those without. Moreover, sleep difficulties may result in problems with growth. All these reasons and more stress the importance of improving sleep hygiene for our children.
Durmer, JS and Chervin, RD. "Pediatric sleep medicine." Continuum. Neurol 2007;13(3):153-200.
Owens, JA et al. "Sleep disturbance and injury risk in young children." Behav Sleep Med. 2005;3(1):18-31.