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8 Common Sleep Issues Kids Face…and How to Help

Common Sleep Problems for KidsOne aspect of parenthood that caught me totally off-guard was the issue of kids and sleep.

No matter how many parenting books and articles I read, it wasn’t until I was bleary-eyed from another night with a teething baby that I truly understood how important quality sleep is not only for the child, but for the entire family.

My kids are older now but as I’ve learned, sleep issues can continue long past the newborn stage. In my house, it’s a rare night that passes without someone waking due to nightmares or bedwetting or simple worry about the day ahead.

I’ve asked two experts to help us better understand these issues: Dr. Edward Kulich, pediatrician, sleep consultant and author of The Best Baby Sleep Book; and Stephanie Newman, clinical psychologist and author of Mad Men on the Couch.

With tips for how parents can help, I hope these guidelines bring nothing but sweet dreams your way.

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  • Nightmares 1 of 8
    Nightmares
    It's common for kids to occasionally have nightmares starting around preschool age. While we don't know why kids or adults have bad dreams, we do know how to help when they occur.

    How to help: Babble's Devan McGuiness wrote a helpful post offering 10 tips for parents. These include cuddling and reassuring, taking it seriously, and making changes in the child's environment that may be contributing to the nightmares.
  • Sleepwalking 2 of 8
    Sleepwalking
    Kulich says, "Sleepwalking occurs at a specific point during a child sleep cycle. It's also not a concerning issue and not a marker for anything more serious. The only issue with sleepwalking is that children may have the potential to hurt themselves by falling, bumping into things."

    How to help: "Make sure that your child cannot hurt themselves by falling down the stairs by closing doors and restricting access to certain areas of the house at night."
  • Night Terrors 3 of 8
    Night Terrors
    According to Kulich, "Night terrors are scary episodes when a child seems to be awake, but actually is not. They tend to scream like they never scream before and do not make eye contact or interact with you during the episode. The child will wake up normally in the morning and not remember the episode. They are common and normal, and do not cause any damage, are not markers for any disease, medical or psychiatric. "

    How to help: "The best thing to do is to make sure the child doesn't hurt themselves by falling out of bed and stay near the child during the episode."
  • Anxiety 4 of 8
    Anxiety
    Just like for adults, worrying and anxiety is another common barrier to a good night's sleep for kids. During the day, children are often distracted by activities, but at night when things have settled down, kids can experience anxiety that leads to restlessness and an inability to relax.
    How to help: Give kids a chance to talk about their worries when it's not close to bedtime. Let you child know that there's nothing he or she should be afraid to tell you, and praise your child for coming to you with his or her fears. While a certain amount of anxiety and worry is not unusual, if you suspect that there's a more significant problem, or if anxiety is interfering with your child's life, seek help from your child's medical provider.

    See the ADAA website for more information.
  • Frequent Waking 5 of 8
    Frequent Waking
    According to Kulich, 'Frequent waking can be a developmental phase or a sign of stress, either at home or school."

    How to help: "Talk to your child to see if there is something bothering them and examine your home life for new stressors."
  • Grinding Teeth 6 of 8
    Grinding Teeth
    Is your child a teeth grinder? "Grinding teeth is an annoying habit that can lead to dental problems if not addressed," says Kulich.

    How to help: " If teeth grinding has been going on longer than a month, a child should be seen by a dentist."
  • Enuresis (Bedwetting) 7 of 8
    Enuresis (Bedwetting)
    According to Newman, "By the age of 4, the vast majority of kids (75%) are dry at night. And by the age of 8, 90-95 percent of that 25% have achieved dryness at night. This means that by age 12 only 2-3% of children continue to wet the bed."

    "Enuresis is very stressful for children. It is a blow to a child's developing esteem and can constitute a significant source of stress for the child who is unable to control his or her bodily functions. Feeling out of control makes kids anxious and causes self doubt and recriminations. It is also a source of shame."

    How to help: "If your child wets he bed,express confidence that he or she will one day be able to control his or her bladder functions. Be positive--encourage any progress or successes, and be encouraging when setbacks and roadblocks occur. Bestowing appropriate levels of praise, showing you are interested in what your child has to say, and maintaining a non judgmental attitude are ways not to embarrass a child who struggles with this problem."
  • Early Rising 8 of 8
    Early Rising
    According to Newman, "By the age of 4, the vast majority of kids (75%) are dry at night. And by the age of 8, 90-95 percent of that 25% have achieved dryness at night. This means that by age 12 only 2-3% of children continue to wet the bed."

    "Enuresis is very stressful for children. It is a blow to a child's developing esteem and can constitute a significant source of stress for the child who is unable to control his or her bodily functions. Feeling out of control makes kids anxious and causes self doubt and recriminations. It is also a source of shame."

    How to help: "If your child wets he bed,express confidence that he or she will one day be able to control his or her bladder functions. Be positive--encourage any progress or successes, and be encouraging when setbacks and roadblocks occur. Bestowing appropriate levels of praise, showing you are interested in what your child has to say, and maintaining a non judgmental attitude are ways not to embarrass a child who struggles with this problem."

While we appreciate the input from these two experts, always seek the opinion of  your child’s health care provider for questions regarding their health.

More by Mary Lauren

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