The reality is, even once you’re past the age of night feeds and sleep regressions, you will still likely experience sleep problems with your children. The good news is, there’s always a solution.
School-going children need at least nine hours of sleep each night (don’t we all!) and not achieving that level of rest can cause problems in other areas of their lives, including school and extracurricular events.
Sleep problems could be related to everything from bedtime routines and sleeping environments to lifestyle and mental wellbeing. Parents should be able to identify most sleep problems quickly and start to make changes to encourage better sleep habits.
Typical Sleep Problems In Children
Coughs & Colds
Common illnesses in children, such as colds, coughs or ear infections, will make it harder for them to settle and/or stay asleep. This is a completely normal situation and should be a short-term issue. Once the illness has cleared, your child should return to their normal sleeping habits.
Another (unfortunately) common occurrence is for your child to have nightmares. Hopefully, these are infrequent and therefore shouldn’t disrupt their sleep too much.
However, if you find your little one experiencing nightmares regularly then talk to them about what’s happening and how you can help. For example, they might require a nightlight or have something that they need to talk about. Often, however, nightmares are a symptom of a child being overtired and thus needing to go to bed earlier to get additional sleep can often be the most helpful solution.
Speaking of their mental wellbeing, it’s easy to forget sometimes we’re raising little humans with their own worries and stresses.
When children are upset they may struggle to get to sleep or wake in the night. Talk to your children about their worries and work on a solution together. It’s important to acknowledge their feelings and let them know it’s good to be open and honest.
Wetting The Bed
If your child is wetting the bed through the night then this could be due to something simple like too many fluids too close to bedtime, but it could also be a medical issue.
Start by making small changes such as increasing water intake earlier in the day so you can reduce it closer to bedtime and making sure they use the bathroom right before bed.
You can also choose to bring them for a 'sleepy wee' right before you go to bed at night to see if that helps them to stay dry for the rest of the night.
If you find bedwetting still to be a frequent issue after you’ve made the necessary lifestyle changes, consult your GP.
Issues With Their Sleeping Environment
Don’t underestimate the power of a good sleeping environment for your children. Just like when they were babies and even some of us adults, children are sensitive to noise, light, and temperature. Ensure their room is dark. If your child does require a nightlight ensure it is orange, yellow or red - not blue or white - in colour. Make sure the room is not too hot or cold.
Signs Of Sleep Problems To Look Out For
You will likely be aware of changes in your child’s behaviour which could be caused by several reasons, but typical signs related to sleep problems include unexplained tiredness, such as falling asleep at school or trouble waking up in the morning.
You may also notice that when they are asleep they’re snoring, grinding their teeth or are restless. Thankfully, as above, there is often an easy solution to improve your child’s sleep.
3 Ways To Improve Sleep
Review Your Bedtime Routine
It may be that you have already got an established bedtime routine down, but consider which elements need to change as your children get older. If your current routine is no longer working, it could be time for a refresh.
Set a regular bedtime each night and try not to vary from it – every day of the week. As tempting as a lazy morning may sound, children’s wake-up or bedtime shouldn’t differ drastically on the weekends.
Turn Off Devices
Your bedtime routine should be relaxing and a chance for everyone to wind down and this includes no screen time. Set a time, about an hour before bed, and turn off any TV, tablets, iPads or other devices as part of the bedtime transition.
Wear Them Out
The oldest trick in the book! By encouraging lots of activity and exercise throughout the day, not only are you keeping your child healthy but also helping tire them out before bedtime. If they’re burning off steam through the day, you will find by their bedtime they’re more than ready for some shut-eye, just avoid letting them become overtired.
It’s also important to consider their eating habits and what they’re consuming later in the day. For example, parents should avoid letting children consume anything that contains caffeine or sugar too close to bedtime. Your children should be satisfied but not too full or hungry come bedtime.
Getting Help When Needed
School-aged children should be able to communicate what’s keeping them up. For example too much noise or too many worries. However, there are a few typical sleep problems you may face sooner or later when raising your little ones and it helps to know you’re not alone.
Above all else, it’s important to know when to get outside help. Depending on the problem you’re facing, consider reaching out to a child sleep specialist or even their GP. Some sleep problems will be sporadic and short-term while others may require professional support.