Did you know that sleep is extremely important for your child’s development? “Sleep isn’t only crucial for things such as tissue repair and the release of hormones that facilitate growth and development, but also for mental development and cognitive functioning,” says Mariza Van Wyk, a specialist at Constantia Sleep Centre. We discuss some of the common sleeping patterns for each age group and learn to cope with sleeping issues.
Infants complete a sleep cycle every hour overnight, so they may wake up during the light-sleep phase. The trick is getting them back to sleep. Views on sleep training methods vary, so use whichever method works best for you and your baby.
Researchers in Norway discovered that toddlers who regularly got less than 10 hours a night developed more problems by the age of five. Toddlers may naturally wake up 10–12 times each night, so they should learn how to fall back asleep by themselves.
Children should fall asleep within 15–30 minutes, wake easily and not need a daytime nap. However, “Children may experience the same sleep disorders as adults, for example, difficulty falling or staying asleep,” says Mariza.
Ever wondered why your teen stays up late? Teen bodies release melatonin later in the day than ours, and they often resist the signals from sleep hormones. They still need eight to 10 hours of rest, which is why they often struggle to wake up.
Students shouldn’t sacrifice sleep for study. The University of Sydney found that stress rose by 14% in students short on sleep, while researchers in Japan discovered that self-esteem dropped when students went to bed late.
Common sleep issues
1. Your child can’t fall asleep…
They may need a soothing association, such as a dummy, or may simply be testing your limits, so firmly establish a consistent, relaxing routine.
2. Your child has nightmares…
While there’s little you can do to stop them, you should limit TV at night, as it has been linked to increased nightmares in children.
3. Your child is too excitable…
Have they consumed ‘hidden’ caffeine in chocolate and soft drinks? Is your child perhaps overtired? To get 9–11 hours of sleep, bedtime should be from 8–9 pm. Follow a calm bedtime routine and explain why sleep is important.
4. Your child gets clingy…
Separation issues may see a child pleading for more water, another hug, or “one more story”. Discuss a bedtime plan with your child, and use a sticker chart to track their progress together, with rewards for goals like ‘sleeping through the night’.
5. Your child has breathing issues…
Sleep-disordered breathing affects two to 10% of children, and because it reduces oxygen getting to the brain, it can be dangerous. Monitor your child’s breathing and if the problem persists, see a doctor immediately.