The sound that you think is part of your dream slowly rouses you from your slumber. You blink, confused by the fact that the noise is still present. Yet, you’re awake!
As you become more conscious of your surroundings, you realize that it comes from the adjacent room. Your child’s room. And suddenly you realize it’s the sound of your son playing with his cars. Your eyes shift to the alarm clock next to your bed. It’s 2:40 in the morning!
‘Not again,’ you think with a sigh. ‘This has got to stop…’
Of course, all children have trouble sleeping at times. Sometimes it’s due to something they saw during the day that scared them. Sometimes it’s because they are overly excited about the next day’s activities. However, having problems sleeping shouldn’t become a habit. When it does, you have to take action.
So, what actually causes sleep problems in children? And how can you solve the problem?
Understanding the Main Causes
Your child’s insomnia could be a signal of an underlying medical or mental-health condition. But in most cases, less severe issues cause problems with sleeping. For example:
- Discomfort – The simplest cause could be that your child may be uncomfortable. Their room may be too hot or too cold, or their bed may be too crowded. It could also be that they’re simply hungry.
- Fears – Your child may be afraid of the dark or monsters under the bed. An active imagination can make their fears worse when they hear unfamiliar noises at night. They may also be afraid of having nightmares or being alone.
- Stress and Worries – An upcoming test at school may cause your child to lose sleep. Or perhaps they’re overwhelmed by a busy daily schedule of after-school activities. Worries can also stem from their parents’ recent divorce, a grave illness or death in the family, or moving away from friends.
Finding Solutions With Your Child
It’s important to work together to develop new sleeping habits and improve bedtime routines. To that end, consider helping your child apply the following suggestions:
- Refrain from drinking caffeinated beverages in the afternoon. Caffeine is a stimulant and it can keep your child awake into the night.
- Never exercise too close to bedtime. Exercise is great, but your child needs to do it earlier in the day because it can rouse them too much. Instead, help your child develop a calming bedtime routine, like taking a warm bath a half hour before going to sleep.
- Limit screen time near the end of the day. In particular, watching anything scary, exciting, or violent. Rather, try reading a peaceful book to them, or have them read it themselves. It will help their imagination stay on favorite places, activities, and people.
- Keep the bedroom dark and the room temperature comfortable. If your child is very afraid of the dark, you could try easing their fear with a dim night-light.
- Ensure that your child’s bedroom makes them feel relaxed and peaceful. Decide with them what they could have in the room that makes them feel good, such as pictures of favorite people or things. Allow your child to bring a comforting object to bed, like a favorite stuffed animal.
- Encourage your child to talk with you about what’s bothering them. Talking can calm their mind, even if you can’t find a solution to the problem at that moment. If your child feels overwhelmed by a busy schedule, help put balance into their day by discussing how to free up some time.
- Show your child how to write their thoughts down in a journal before bedtime. This is an adjunct to talking with you if they’re old enough to write.
It may take awhile to find out exactly what’s interfering with your child’s sleeping habits. You may find that you need the help of a therapist. But with patience, love, and maybe some guidance, you and your child will soon enjoy a full night’s sleep.