If your nights of disturbed sleep didn’t end with babyhood, you may need some help with your older child. If a child of grade school age regularly gets up in the middle of the night, these night wakings can wreak havoc on the entire family. Resolve the sleep disturbances to help everyone get needed rest.
Understand Normal Sleep Cycles
Before you decide to take any steps to resolve sleep issues with your child, understand normal sleep cycles -- perhaps your child’s night waking is not abnormal or unusual. Everyone goes through specific sleep cycles during sleep that involve both lighter and deeper slumber, according to psychologist Gwen Dewar, with the Parenting Science website. When your child goes through a lighter sleep cycle, he might just become more restless in bed or he might actually wake up in response to noise or disturbance. If he wakes, he might have trouble going back to sleep.
Rule out physical causes to night waking to see if your child has physical symptoms that are causing sleep disturbances. Possible issues include gastroesophageal reflux and sleep apnea, states Dewar. It’s also possible that your child has undiagnosed food allergies that can create digestive issues. Even the onset of a cold or infection might make it difficult to rest.
Some external issues in your family could contribute to night waking, states the University of Michigan Health System. If members of your family are experiencing stress, such as financial or marital difficulties, job loss or illness of a family member, the overall stress level of the family could affect your youngster’s sleep. It’s also possible that depression in a mother could have a direct correlation to sleep disturbances in a child.
When your child wakes, a number of issues could be causing her eyes to pop open, according to the Associated Counselors & Therapists website. She may be experiencing nightmares or night terrors, which rouse her and disturb her sleep. If your youngster experiences bedwetting, this common problem usually disrupts sleep. Sleepwalking and sleep talking could occur during deep sleep cycles -- your youngster is probably unresponsive during these episodes.
How to Help
Sleep disturbances demand a concerted effort to connect with your child during waking hours, advises pediatrician Meg Meeker. If your child’s sleep problems stem from worry or anxiety, try to connect and learn what’s bothering him. A few careful questions should help him open up and share worries with you. Once you know the situation, provide support and guidance to help him feel better. If you feel unable to resolve your child’s anxiety, seek professional assistance.
- Parenting Science: Night Wakings: A Guide for the Science-Minded Parent
- Ask Dr. Sears: Hidden Medical Causes of Nightwaking
- University of Michigan Health System: Sleep Problems
- Beach Psych: Sleep Problems in Children
- Meg Meeker MD: Help! My 8-Year-Old Is Waking in the Middle of the Night -- Troubleshooting Sleep Problems in Your School-Age Child
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