Sleep is especially important for growing children. This article offers advice, and answers some frequently asked questions about children and sleep.
Sleep is essential to a child’s healthy development. During sleep the body and mind repair and replenishes itself and prepares a growing child for the next day. Without enough sleep, children can suffer from fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating and poor performance in school.
When children get enough sleep, they are more alert and focused during the day and perform better in school. Adequate sleep also enhances problem-solving abilities and creative thinking. Good sleep habits help children to become independent, confident and emotionally secure.
In addition, sleep has significant implications for a child’s overall health and wellbeing.
The recommended amount of sleep varies depending on age. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), the following are the recommended hours of sleep for different age groups:
All children are different, and it's important to cater to your child's needs to ensure optimum sleep quality and duration.
Here are some tips to help children get a good night’s sleep:
Below are some frequently asked questions regarding children and sleep:
Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is a common sleep disorder in children and occurs during deep sleep. The exact cause of sleepwalking is not well understood, but it is believed to be related to genetics, sleep deprivation and certain medications. Stress and anxiety can also trigger sleepwalking episodes.
It is common for parents to provide comfort to their children by lying with them until they fall asleep, and there is no harm in doing so as long as it is safe. However, it can become a problematic habit if it interferes with the child's ability to fall asleep independently and makes it difficult for the parent to break the pattern. In such cases, it might be helpful to establish a bedtime routine and gradually encourage the child to fall asleep independently. Consulting a paediatrician or sleep specialist may also be beneficial.
The age at which a child can put themselves to sleep can vary and is dependent on many factors such as temperament, development and parenting practices. Some children may be able to fall asleep independently as early as six months, while others may need more support until they are 3-4 years old or older.
It is generally recommended to start promoting independent sleep habits around 6-12 months of age, with the goal of having the child fall asleep on their own by the time they are 2-3 years old. This can be done gradually by establishing a consistent bedtime routine and allowing the child to practice self-soothing techniques. However, every child is different, and it is important to respond to their individual needs and pace of development.
Teeth grinding (bruxism) during sleep is a common issue among children and can be caused by several factors, such as stress, anxiety, misaligned teeth or an abnormal bite. It can also be a side effect of certain medications or a symptom of an underlying medical condition such as sleep apnoea.
If teeth grinding is causing dental problems or impacting the child's quality of life, a dentist or paediatrician may recommend treatment options such as a dental guard, behavioural therapy or medication. In some cases, addressing the underlying cause of the bruxism can also help reduce symptoms.
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