children have sleep problems. Examples include:
awakening during the night
sleepy during the day
grinding and clenching
sleep problems are related to irregular sleep habits or to
anxiety about going to bed and falling asleep. Persistent
sleep problems may also be symptoms of emotional difficulties.
"Separation anxiety" is a developmental landmark for young
children. For all young children, bedtime is a time of separation.
Some children will do all they can to prevent separation at
to help minimize common sleep problems, a parent should develop
consistent bedtime and regular bedtime and sleep routines
for children. Parents often find that feeding and rocking
help an infant to get to sleep. However, as the child leaves
infancy, parents should encourage the child to sleep without
feeding and rocking. Otherwise, the child will have a hard
time going to sleep alone.
are relatively common during childhood. The child remembers
nightmares, which usually involve major threats to the child's
well-being. Nightmares, which begin at a variety of ages,
affect girls more often than boys. For some children nightmares
are serious, frequent, and interfere with restful sleep.
terrors, sleepwalking, and sleep talking constitute a relatively
rare group of sleep disorders, called "parasomnias." Sleep
terrors are different from nightmares. The child with sleep
terrors will scream uncontrollably and appear to be awake,
but is confused and can't communicate. Sleep terrors usually
begin between ages 4 and 12. Children who sleepwalk may appear
to be awake as they move around, but are actually asleep and
in danger of hurting themselves. Sleepwalking usually begins
between ages 6 and 12. Both sleep terrors and sleepwalking
run in families and affect boys more often than girls.
children with parasomnias have single or occasional episodes
of these disorders. However, when episodes occur several times
a night, or nightly for weeks at a time, or interfere with
the child's daytime behavior, treatment by a child and adolescent
psychiatrist may be necessary. A range of treatments is available.
wake reversal may occur in some teens and may cause problems
with daily life. Sleep can also be disturbed by mood disorders,
substance abuse, ADHD, and anxiety.
as they mature, children usually get over common sleep problems
as well as the more serious disorders (parasomnias). However,
parents with ongoing concerns should contact their pediatrician
or directly seek consultation with a child and adolescent
information see Facts for Families:
#7 Children Who Won't Go to School
# 52 Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation, and
#4 The Depressed Child.
See also: Your Child (1998 Harper Collins)/Your
Adolescent (1999 Harper Collins).
#34 Updated 01/00