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Childhood Sleep Problems

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The amount of sleep children need gradually decreases as they mature. Newborn babies usually nap about 16 hours through the day and night, while teenagers need about nine hours of sleep per night. For many parents, getting their children to go to bed and stay there can be quite frustrating, but they can help put a stop to bedtime troubles by following these simple steps.

  • Stick to the same bedtime every night, even on weekends.
  • Turn off the television, video games and computer at least one hour before going to bed and start winding down with a consistent routine that includes brushing teeth, going to the bathroom and maybe reading a short story.
  • Make sure the place to sleep is comfortable.
  • Keep a low noise level in the house while the child is asleep.

Some childhood sleep problems called parasomnias, include night terrors, sleepwalking and sleep talking. Night terrors involve episodes of fear, flailing or screaming that can last a few minutes while the child is asleep. They affect only a small number of children between the ages of three and 12 and usually are outgrown by adolescence. Sleepwalking typically starts between the ages of four and 8. Children who sleepwalk may look like they are awake, but actually they are sleeping and may be at risk for injury by falling down stairs or opening windows. When sleep talking, speech is characteristically mumbled and unintelligible. Parents should not try to wake children up, but instead guide them back to bed or otherwise gently reassure them.

Not getting enough sleep for children may lead to difficulties in school, anxiety disorders and behavioral problems. For more information about childhood sleep problems, talk with your doctor or call 888-622-6325 for a free referral to a pediatrician near you.

MacNeal Hospital

3249 S. Oak Park Ave.

Berwyn, IL 60402

(708) 783-9100