There is nothing more precious than those first few months when you hold your beautiful baby in your arms and rock her to sleep while you sing a lullabye. The moment when your baby’s breath becomes deep and even, you know your little bundle is soundly sleeping and can be transferred to her crib for a few precious hours of slumber.
As your baby gets older, however, you may begin to notice it is harder to get her to sleep, and she won’t get off to sleep on her own. Or you find your once soundly-sleeping child is awakening at night screaming, bed-wetting, or walking about your house. With children sleep problems can arise unexpectedly and can be troublesome to deal with at any point, for you and your child.
One of the most common sleep problems in children is separation anxiety. It happens mostly in older babies and toddlers. As they get sleepier, they begin to fight going to sleep longer because they know they will spend hours without you. This can lead to a lot of frustration at night when you are trying to get some sleep. Your child may begin to fall asleep, but as soon as you make the transfer to the crib they will awaken in tears. Otherwise, your child may sleep for a few hours, but during a natural night-time awakening become so worked up she is unable to soothe herself back to sleep. Both are frustrating problems, but can be overcome with some sleep training and a regular bedtime routine. As long as your child becomes secure in the knowledge that you aren’t leaving her for good, she will be able to sleep on her own. A regular bedtime routine will help soothe her and prepare her so she knows it is time to go to sleep, and you will be there when she awakens in the morning.
For more severe children sleep problems such as sleep terrors and sleep walking, there may be an underlying issue. Sleep terrors are different than nightmares in children. They can be frightening for parents to watch because your child will appear to be awake, but is confused and easily rattled. They are characterized by inconsolable screaming, which may last for a few seconds to several minutes. When they occur infrequently, there is no need for concern. When they are regular occurrences or when they begin to interfere with everybody’s quality of life, intervention by a child psychologist may be necessary. Sleep walking is very much like sleep terrors in that the child appears to be awake, but is really asleep and incoherent. They can be dangerous to the child because they are moving around while asleep, and can fall down stairs, walk out of the house, even cross streets and get lost. For children who sleep walk, it is sometimes necessary to put a lock, child gate or an alarm on a bedroom door to prevent injury. Both sleep terrors and sleep walking are more common in boys than in girls, and usually begin around age 6.
Children sleep problems are sometimes very trying to deal with. In most cases they are not severe, and don’t require any sort of medical intervention. In severe cases however, where they are impacting a child’s and a parent’s quality of life, intervention by a child psychiatrist may be necessary in order to get to the root of an underlying problem.
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