Sleep - Supporting You Child's Development

Is your child having problems sleeping? You are not alone. More than a third of school aged children experience sleep problems. Disturbed sleep at night will make it harder for your child to function and engage with tasks during the day and may impact on how they behave and learn.

Sufficient, quality sleep is essential for children’s development, growth, learning and wellbeing. So how do you know if your child is getting enough? Some symptoms, like yawning, napping and drooping eyes may be easy to recognize in a child. However, other symptoms of insufficient sleep in children may not always be obvious, and may include: hyperactivity, lack of interest / motivation, breathlessness or snoring at night, academic troubles, mood swings, concentration difficulties and confusion.

Problems to do with a child’s sleep may not be obvious at first but most sleep problems can be treated, cured and/or managed. If you believe your child is having problems with their sleeping here are some tips you can trial:

At Night:

  • A regular sleep routine is important in maintaining consistent quality sleep. Establish a set bedtime and stick to it. Even on weekends try and not vary too much on bedtime / wakeup time.
  • It may be helpful to introduce a pre-bedtime routine or ritual. For example: set a time for quiet play, followed by shower, brush teeth, bed, story, lights out (visual schedules may help in enforcing a bedtime routine). Whenever possible keep the order and timing consistent. As your child gets older the activities and times may change but it’s best to try and maintain a routine when possible. Find the routine that works best for your child and you.
  • Remember that a bed is for sleeping. Allow your child to build the association between their bed and sleep. Try to avoid playing videogames, snacking or other activities whilst in bed.
  • Try to avoid activities that may be exciting or highly stimulating before bed such as: videogames, outside play or activities that involve non-repetitive movements, sounds or flashing lights. Alternatively, repetitive movements and sounds such as rocking and soothing music or a white noise machine may help your child become calm and ready for sleep
  • It may help to clear the sleeping space, are there any lights noises or clutter that may be distracting for your child?

During the Day:

  • Think about diet, if your child is having soft drinks that contain caffeine during the day or sugary foods in the afternoon it man have a negative impact on their sleep. The effects of caffeine can last several hours, if possible, try and avoid any caffeine after lunchtime.
  • Try and encourage daily exercise and outside play. Exercise is an important part of health and development and may also influence sleep quality.

Get Help

If your child is having sleep difficulties speak with your doctor. There are a lot of things that can influence sleep, in order to get the best outcome for your child it is important that the cause is identified.

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