Your Childs Sleep Behaviour Issues

What are Sleep Behaviour issues?

Normal sleep patterns in children are widely variable so it can be difficult to tell when a sleep behaviour is an issue.  The most common sleep behaviour issues in young children identified by parents centre around difficulty getting to sleep and difficulty staying asleep.

Common issues include:

  • Bedtime refusal
  • Waking up and calling during the night
  • Refusal to stay in bed
  • Difficulties settling down to sleep
  • Lack of sleep

Older children and teens may have slightly different sleep issues:

  • Delayed sleep phase
  • Poor sleep hygiene (TV, smartphones, computers in room)
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Narcolepsy

How Can Sleep Behaviour Issues Affect My Child?

Sleep in childhood is important for general health, development and behaviour.Conversely, lack of sleep can lead to impaired daytime functioning,

How does Sleep Behaviour issues affect Parents?

Sleep behaviour issues in a child can cause parental sleep deprivation which can lead to::

  • Moodiness (i.e. irritability, lack of patience)
  • Difficulty concentrating e.g. at work
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Frustration with your child

What Causes Kids Sleep Behaviour Issues?

Sleep behaviour issues may develop as a result of:

  • An underlying condition (i.e. sleep apnoea, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome)
  • Environmental factors (i.e. lack of routine, exposure to phone screens)
  • Psychological concerns (i.e. stress, nightmares)
  • Disruptive events (i.e. moving house, going on holiday)

What are the Symptoms of Sleep Behaviour Issues?

There are a variety of actions or signs that can indicate a child is suffering from sleep behaviour issues:

  • Resistance to sleep schedules (i.e. going to bed, staying in bed, waking up)
  • Negative and responses to being asked to sleep
  • Irritability during the day
  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Poor performance at school

When is Sleep Behaviour a Problem?

Whether your child’s sleep behaviour is a problem depends partly on your individual circumstances, expectations and cultural norms. If you feel your child is not sleeping well and/or you think it is affecting their daytime behaviour may refer your child to a sleep specialist.

Why Treat Your Child's Sleep Behaviour Issues?

Ongoing behavioural issues can impact a child’s physical and psychological development. Resolving these issues quickly will ensure that children experience the minimum interruption to their emotional and physical growth.

What are Treatments for Sleep Behaviour Issues?

Treatments for sleeping behaviour issues are wide ranging and will depend on the individual circumstance. They may include:

1)  Establishing a regular, relaxed bedtime routine.

  • A typical routine may involve dinner, a bath, a bedtime story and then lights out.
  • Keep regular sleep and waking times including on the weekends.
  • Avoid boisterous behaviour before bed.
  • Avoid” screen time before bed.
  • Make sure your ch ild’s room is a comfortable, safe and quiet place for them to fall asleep.

2)  Controlled Comforting

  • Useful in children from 6 to 24 months of age
  • Is considered safe and effective by medical professionals
  • Start with a good bedtime routine as above
  • Based on leaving your child’s room before they have fallen asleep and returning at set time intervals if your child becomes upset
  • Can be modified according to parent and child needs
  • Usually works with one to three weeks

Issues caused by more serious underlying conditions will need to be treated accordingly. For example, children suffering from obstructive sleep apnoea may need adenoidectomy or CPAP. Medications are rarely helpful and should only be used as part of an overall sleep behaviour strategy.

A GP or sleep specialist will advise the best course of action following diagnosis.