Child Care: Sleeping Pattern in Children

❖ Sleep rhythm: A newborn baby doesn’t have a fixed pattern of sleep. The baby may sleep too much in the daytime while during the night it may keep awake. A regular sleep rhythm is established by 3-4 months of age.

❖ Falling asleep with the parents: The child has to be weaned (after a particular age) from the habit of his falling asleep with the parents. Tuck his favourite toy in the bed along with him and tell him to make it go to sleep along with him. The child will gradually associate sleep with the toy and his association of sleeping with the parents lying down besides him will weaken as a result.

❖ Bedtime struggles: The children are in a state of “evergreen love” with life and don’t want to withdraw from the events of the day. Thus they are reluctant to fall asleep. The most important cause for bedtime struggles is the absence of clear cut and consistent limits set by the parents regarding acceptable bedtime behaviour.The best remedy for bedtime struggles is that the parents deal with it firmly and set a definite time for “lights out.” After being put to bed, the child may try to engage parental attention in various ways like “I want water, I want to go to toilet” etc. Don’t bow to these requests. Handle them in a firm but neutral fashion. For e.g. you can tell him firmly that he just had water or just had peed. When children realise that nothing will help, no matter what they do, they usually give in to their fatigue and fall asleep.

❖ Night waking: The child frequently arouses from sleep and does not go back to sleep easily, causing distress to the parents. If the parents are firm and can continually ignore waking, whining and fussiness of their child in the middle of the night (this may result in increased crying initially), the problem is solved within a week.

❖ Parasomnias: These are divided into nightmares, night terrors, night walking and night talking. Parasomnias are benign and not of much concern unless too frequent.

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