Tips for Making
SLEEP FOR KIDS a Vital Priority By Cheryl Lynne Potter
hildren, just like some adults, often have trouble getting a good night’s sleep. Some kids toss and turn all night, as they try their best to get some zzzs. A good night’s sleep is vital to how a child’s mind and body grows and develops. Behavior or developmental problems can occur when a child doesn’t sleep well. Those sleepless nights can also cause parents a lot of headaches and plenty of stress. Restless nights can also be warning sign of a serious health issue, like a sleeping problem. “Children absolutely have sleep problems,” said Melisa Moore, Ph.D, a sleep ex-
8 | May 2018
pert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The hospital has a partnered with New Jersey’s Virtua Hospital and their doctors offer their services at Virtua’s pediatric sleep lab, as well as offering other pediatric medical care. Some sleep problems, said Dr. Moore, are “similar to adults (such as obstructive sleep apnea or restless legs) and others are specific to children (difficulty falling asleep without a parent).” Yet, the most common problems depends on the age of the child, said Dr. Moore. “In infants we often see frequent night wakings, in toddlers we might see pushing the limits, which leads to a long bedtime routine and late bedtime. In adolescents we typically see daytime
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sleepiness as a result of difficulty falling asleep at an ideal time (either because of habits of biology) and having to wake early for school.” For parents, there are many warning signs to look for in determining if a child has a sleeping problem. “First, notice your child’s breathing at night,” said Dr. Moore. Do they look comfortable or are they snoring? “If you observe snoring, gasping, or pauses in breathing, this should be discussed with your child’s pediatrician.” Also, if they have “trouble falling asleep or staying asleep and you can’t fix it yourself, a sleep doctor or sleep psychologist can help,” said Dr. Moore.
”For children, the main key in getting a good night’s sleep is consistency in a bedtime or a wake time routine“ For children, the main key in getting a good night’s sleep is consistency in a bedtime or a wake time routine. This also includes weekdays and weekends, as well. For a toddler, said Dr. Moore, this would be “about 20-30 minutes and include something like a bath, pjs, brush teeth, 3 short stories and a song. For a teenager this might be a snack, pack lunch, take a shower and read for 20 minutes.” Parents should also eliminate caffeine after lunch, as well as daytime napping for older children and teenagers, said Dr. Moore. Parents should also monitor their children’s use of electronic devices before bedtime. Electronics, said Dr. Moore, temporarily stops the brain from producing a chemical in our brain, called melatonin, which helps us to get sleepy and stay asleep at night. Children should also learn not to fall asleep with the TV or some other electronic device on. If a child uses the TV to fall asleep, they may “wake more frequently during the night,” said Dr. Moore. Consulting with your child’s pediatrician or even seeking advice from a sleep clinic may be helpful to both parent and child to finally get a good night’s sleep.