The younger the child, the more they sleep, and the more sleep they need, around the clock. Sleep is a vital part of a child’s development. So are naps. Children who don’t nap well are often more fussy and irritable, and that means less downtime for parents and caregivers, too.
Getting a baby to sleep through the night is the new parent’s goal. Some times, swaddling will do the trick, but other times, innovation is required and trial and error. Infants between the ages of 4 to 11 months require lots of sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that babies this age get 12 to 15 hours of sleep each day.
For tired parents, nap time is the ‘Calgon, take me away!’ moment[ask your mother] needed to do other chores around the house, make phone calls, have a bite to eat, or check email. It can be a time to regroup or take a nap, for parents too. The benefits of naps are also that the children who nap have longer attention spans, are less fussy, and sleep better at night.
The better rested babies and toddlers are, the more easily sleep comes. Nap time can be troublesome for many children and their parents, and trying to figure out nap times can be challenging, as well. So, here’s the skinny:
For the most part, beyond infancy, that much needed sleep in the form of napping gradually wanes. Your child will likely go from 5-6 naps a day down to one or two. One nap is usually around mid-morning and the other somewhere in the afternoon. The morning nap goes first, and that is around 12 to 18 months. The afternoon nap, by age five, will disappear next. About 50% of children have moved on by then.
Parents must remember that there is a difference between a child not wanting to take a nap and a child needing to take one. So, if your child refuses to take a nap, there are still some signs to be sure to observe that indicate the need for a nap.
A child may begin to rub his or her eyes and a general crankiness. These are signals that say your child needs a nap. If you build a reliable routine around nap time, your child may be less resistant to it. Before nap time help prepare your child by reading a book, listening to soft music, or giving him his favorite blanket. If these don’t work, then shut down everything in the vicinity and opt for quiet time instead.
Even with the best planned sleep schedule, children can develop some sleep issues and make it difficult to get back on track. Many of these issues and challenges are developmentally-related, and will disappear as your child ages. Patience and time are usually the best treatment. Stay calm. This, too, shall pass!
Sleep is critical for a growing child’s health and development. It is very important to establish and follow a consistent bedtime and nap time schedule so children can achieve the full number of hours needed for their age group. Preschoolers should get about 10-13 hours of sleep per night, while school aged children need 9-11 hours of sleep.
Some common sleep issues and how to handle them are:
NIGHTMARE and NIGHT TERRORS
These sound familiar, but they are two different things. About 1/4 of children between 5-12 years old will experience nightmares. They typically occur during REM sleep, when children dream. They may shout in their sleep, thrash around or even sleepwalk. The good thing is that they usually won’t remember this the next morning. You may want to wake your child up, but this may worsen matters. Just guide your child back to bed or sleep, if sleepwalking.
It is scary to watch, but night terrors, too, are rarely recalled in the morning. Just stay calm, but if they occur regularly, you may want to share this with your pediatrician. Keep a diary of his or her sleep habits, noting the times when this happens. You may notice a pattern. Your answers are there.
About 15 percent of potty trained kids under the age of five will occasionally have an accident. Bed wetting could be caused by deep sleep, an overly filled bladder or illness. If this happens once in a while, minimize the focus on the accident. Anxiety over bed-wetting may cause kids to be fearful of falling asleep. Instead, don’t offer any liquids right before bedtime and make sure that your child goes to the bathroom before getting in the bed.
DIFFICULTY FALLING ASLEEP
Most children will drift off to sleep quickly at night. Others have difficulty with it. It may be due to blue light exposure from electronic equipment. This glow interferes with the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls the sleep-wake cycle.
Power down iPads, Laptops,cell phones and the TV[if in your child’s bedroom] at least an hour before bedtime. Set a good example by following this routine yourself. Leave electronics outside of the bedroom.
SNORING and SLEEP APNEA
A child may breathe heavily or snore for a few days while with a cold. Ongoing snoring that is loud and gasp-like, could be signs of sleep apnea, a medical condition. Other health issues could be enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Only 1 to 4% of children experience sleep apnea, and it can be hard to determine the cause of snoring. It’s best to make an appointment with your pediatrician, if it persists.
Children NEED sleep, as do adults, and as parents, your job is to ensure your child gets a healthy amount of sleep, to grow healthy, and try to do the very same thing yourself to maintain your health and your ability to be the best parent you can be. As a matter of fact, I’m getting sleepy myself.