Slideshow Pictures: Children's Health -- Top Reasons Your Child Can't Sleep
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No. 1: She's Too Young!
Babies that start sleeping through the night right away are legendary -- and rare. For the first two months, newborns sleep on an irregular schedule, about 12 to 18 hours a day. In about three to six months, it should start to become regular. From 3 months to 1 year old, babies need a total of 14 to 15 hours of sleep (including naps). By about 9 months old, 70% to 80% of infants will sleep through the night -- meaning five to six hours in a row.
No. 2: You're His Sleep Aide
If parents rock a baby to sleep every night, he won't learn to fall asleep on his own. And he may cry to get what he needs -- a parent's attention -- in order to get back to sleep. Put him to bed when he's sleepy, but not already asleep. He'll become a "self-soother" and learn to fall asleep on his own -- even if he wakes up in the middle of the night.
No. 3: He's Over-Tired
Toddlers and preschoolers can be irritable without enough sleep -- and that makes some distraught children resist sleep even more. Toddlers and preschoolers need 11 to 14 hours of sleep every 24 hours. Some of that time is spent napping. At this age, it's important to keep kids on a schedule with regular bedtime, wake-up, and nap times -- as well as mealtimes and playtimes.
No. 4: Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety can add to sleep troubles. Talking, singing, rocking, or extra feedings may turn this stage into a bad habit of night wakings. At around 6 months old, you can encourage her to go back to sleep on her own. As long as baby doesn't appear sick, speak softly and rub her back, but don't pick her up or feed her. A nightlight may comfort toddlers who are afraid of the dark.
No. 5: No Regular Bedtime Routine
Doing the same things each night before bed helps your child recognize the change from being awake to being asleep. Create an age-appropriate, relaxing bedtime routine that includes events like a bath, story time, a light snack, then lights out. The routine should be the same each night and should always end in your child's room. Experts suggest you start a routine by the time your baby is 4 months old.
No. 6: Nighttime Wakefulness
Whether it's separation anxiety, lack of routine, or just the desire to control their environment, some kids resist bedtime or invent reasons to stay up later. They may ask for another story, drink, or bathroom trip. Go into your child's room and be strict but reassuring. Your visits should get shorter each time. Give them some choices about bedtime, such as the order of the bedtime activities, but not the time.
No. 7: Not Enough Nap Time
Believe it or not, if kids don't get enough daytime sleep, they have trouble falling asleep at night. Most babies need two or three naps a day. Toddlers need at least one nap -- young toddlers often take two. And most still take an afternoon nap until they're 5. Tune in to your child's mood. If she's cranky and sleepy, let her nap. But don't let her nap close to bedtime -- and don't skip naps, either.
No. 8: Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Sometimes children can't sleep due to obstructive sleep apnea -- when the airways are blocked, often by enlarged tonsils and nasal tissues called adenoids. Kids with sleep apnea usually snore loudly, have labored breathing, and restless sleep. It affects about 1 in 100 kids and is most common from ages 3 to 7, when tonsils and adenoids are at their biggest. Treatment includes surgery or having the child wear a nose mask at night.
No. 9: Snoring
About 10% of kids snore. They can snore for many reasons, including sleep apnea, seasonal allergies, stuffiness from a cold, or a deviated septum. If sleep isn't disturbed, your pediatrician probably won't treat snoring. See your pediatrician if your child isn't sleeping well because of snoring or breathing problems. If snoring bothers sleep and it isn't an apnea symptom, it may be treated with medication, such as nasal steroid spray to shrink nasal tissues.
No. 10: Nightmares and Night Terrors
Bad dreams are usually harmless. They tend to end by the teen years. If your child has a nightmare, he may be very scared, and he can tell you about it. During night terrors, a child may act terrified yet may still be asleep. But when he wakes, he won't remember it. Console your child during bad dreams. Make sure he gets enough sleep and has a soothing bedtime routine. See your pediatrician if bad dreams continue.
No. 11: Sleepwalking
Kids who have night terrors also often sleepwalk. When they're only partially awake they walk, talk, sit up in bed, or do other activities. Their eyes may be open, but they're unaware. Most kids outgrow sleepwalking by their teens. Don't wake a sleepwalking child because you may scare her. Gently guide her back to bed. Keep the area around her safe: Lock doors and put up safety gates near steps.
No. 12: Allergies, Asthma, and More
Some medical conditions can prevent kids from sleeping. Stuffy noses from allergies, colds, and asthma can make it hard to breathe. In babies, colic, acid reflux, earaches, or teething pain also can lead to poor sleep. Your pediatrician may offer symptom relief to help your child sleep better.
No. 13: Common Medicines
Sometimes the medicine your child takes to treat a condition can affect his quality of sleep. Decongestants and antihistamines to treat colds or allergies can cause restless sleep. Side effects for ADD/ADHD drugs often include difficulty sleeping. If medications are hurting your child's sleep, talk to your pediatrician about changing the drug, dose, or timing.
No. 14: The Teen Body Clock
A teen's sleep cycle changes during adolescence, making him more alert in the evening and sleepier in the morning. Work with your teen's new body clock, letting her do homework at night and sleep later if she can. But teens still need at least eight-and-a-half hours of sleep. Some schools and sleep specialists are working to make high school start times later so teens are at school when they are most alert.
Try a Pacifier or Teddy Bear
Sometimes having a familiar object close by can help a child drift off. Pacifiers satisfy babies' need to suck and can encourage sleep, even in a child who is breastfeeding. Special toys like security blankets or stuffed animals can offer comfort, too. White noise may drown out sounds that would otherwise wake up a baby or toddler.
Make a Better Room for Sleep
A pleasant room can make it easier for your child to sleep. Make sure the room is dark (a small nightlight is OK) and the temperature is comfortable -- an adult in short sleeves should not be too hot or cold. Children may be comfortable in lightweight outfits such as one-piece sleepers. Keep the room quiet. Shut the door if your child can hear a TV or activity elsewhere in the house.
Know How Much Sleep Is Right
Is your child nodding off on her desk? Ten percent of kids are so tired they fall asleep during school. School-aged kids between 5 and 10 years old need at least 10 hours of sleep a night. She should be able to fall asleep within half an hour of going to bed and should easily wake up at the time she needs to start her day.
A No-Screen-Time Bedroom Routine
With constant access to phones, computers, and videogames, teens can be tempted to text, chat, and play instead of sleep. But like all kids and adults, teens need a relaxing routine to wind down for bed. Interactive electronics that work the brain will keep your teen awake -- and make him sleepy the next day. Keep TVs, computers, and phones out of the bedroom and don't let your teen stay up late with technology.
Kids, Stress, and Insomnia
There are many reasons kids have a hard time falling or staying asleep. Although insomnia can have physical causes, children and teens often can blame stress. They may be thinking or worrying about homework, relationships, or the next day's activities. Sleep medication is rarely the answer. Help them relax with deep breathing and a calm bedtime routine. They should not use caffeine or electronics before bed, either.
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