Sleep Hygiene & Sleep Disorders in Childhood

As an adult, it’s likely that you suffer from insomnia at least occasionally. Unfortunately, even though it seems like babies sleep a lot, babies as well as adults can have sleep problems, too. Sometimes, they can morph over from the occasional disturbance to an actual sleep disorder.

If this happens, the first thing you need to do is to get your child to a doctor so that the baby can be properly diagnosed. Of course, infants sleep a lot when very small and in fact spend most of their early weeks eating and sleeping. As they grow, they’ll spend more and more time awake. For the first few weeks, however, for the most part, the baby won’t be doing much other than eating, sleeping and soiling diapers.

As children get older, of course, it becomes much more exciting to stay awake than it does to go to sleep. Many young children have the idea that they are “missing something” every time they go to sleep. Adults simply have endless fun when they’re awake, while the child is stuck with boring old sleep. Of course, this isn’t true, but this is something that children go through to at least some extent for the most part.

The best way to make sure children go to bed without much trouble is to establish a regular routine. Follow the routine every night. For example, perhaps just after dinner, it’s time for bath. Once the child is in pajamas and ready for bed, some quiet playtime with toys in his or her room is to follow, followed by bedtime story, tucking in with stuffed animals or favorite blanket, and lights out.

Most children also go through periods when they experience nightmares or “the monster under the bed.” Again, this is usually pretty normal. Because young children sleep comparatively more than adults do as well and the line between imagination and reality is necessarily blurred at that age, sometimes sleep and wake patterns are much closer together for them, especially at night, so they may be “dreaming awake” for some of what the experience. Again, if this is true, simply being soothing and reassuring, while making sure that the child knows he or she needs to stay in bed, is the best way to handle this. (Of course, older children are very, very good about getting “spooky” monsters to delay bed times and other undesirable events, so of course, smart parents are aware of this and make sure these types of monsters are put in their places.)

For some babies just home from the hospital, especially if premature, they may suffer from sleep apnea. The parents who bring these infants home are required to go through courses for CPR, and many are also trained in the use of monitors for children so that they can be instantly alerted if babies stop breathing. This is a common cause for the disorder known as crib death, and such babies will likely be put on monitors so that parents will be alerted immediately if the baby should stop breathing. Simply nudging the baby or rubbing his or her back is usually enough to get these little ones who just aren’t quite old enough to know better to breathe on their own again.

By the time children are about six months old, the most acute danger for death has passed, with two years generally considered a safe age for no longer being at risk for this disorder. Your doctor will be able to tell you when your child no longer needs to be monitored for sleep apnea.

My name is Carol and I have been a consultant for parents who are either getting ready to bring a newborn baby into this world of ours or maybe they have just had a newborn baby and they seek advice. Please feel free to stop by my site at [] and say “Hi”. For your personal baby shopping experience visit [] Again, I look forward to meeting a lot of new expected parents in the coming future…

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UTCHS Center of Excellence Learning Cafe
Presented by Ehab Mansoor, MD, Medical Director, Sleep Medicine, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital

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