Helping Children Sleep Through The Night: Read these insightful tips and tricks from Dr. Jesika DiCampli at Longevity MedicalAug 01, 2012 02:53PM ● By Jesika DiCampli, NMD
All parents usually struggle at some point with getting their children to sleep at night. This can be true for infants and also for children of all ages. Many parents wonder how much sleep their child needs. Newborns need at least 16 hours of sleep throughout the day, while toddlers should get approximately 12 to 13 hours per day, including naps.
As a child grows, the need for sleep lessens slightly. However, every child should have a minimum of at least 10 hours a day. There are a few ways that parents can help their children’s transition to sleep a smooth one, allowing them to drift off to sleep enjoying blissful rest for the entire night.
This is the most important aspect of getting a child to sleep. Babies thrive on consistency and routine. When it comes to bedtime, it cannot be more important. Bedtime rituals allow a sense of security and familiarity to help ease the child’s transition from awake to sleep. Sequencing a routine by starting early in the evening allows the child to understand and know what to expect when getting ready to go to bed.
There are many ways to implement a bedtime routine, including bathing, cuddling, rocking, feeding, reading and singing prior to bed. By sequentially repeating these events night after night at the same time, the child can learn patterns of association. The earlier this pattern is established in a child’s life, the easier it will be to develop a healthy sleep pattern.
Babies are used to falling asleep with the help of their parents. As they grow, it is normal for them to start learning how to put themselves to sleep. The idea of self-soothing is that they can utilize their own set of bedtime routine tricks to help comfort themselves and fall asleep on their own. Some of these include rhythmic movements, hugging stuffed animals, singing and talking or even twirling their hair. This all allows for relaxation and they will drift off to sleep magically on their own.
While some parents master getting their children to bed with ease, some find that keeping a child asleep in their own bed throughout the night is even more of a challenge. Because babies and toddlers have easily interrupted sleep cycles, it is important to find out how you can keep the child comfortable while sleeping, so that there is little reason for waking to occur. Babies in particular respond to the type of sleep dress and coverings they sleep in. Many babies associate swaddling with security and sleepy time. By starting to determine preferences at a young age, the child will grow to know what is most comfortable and important in their sleep environment.
Another aspect of keeping a child comfortable while sleeping is the temperature of the room. Not every child has the same sleep temperature setting, so customizing the sleep environment individually is important. The bedroom should be quiet and dark to facilitate good sleep quality. Night-lights are acceptable as long as it is dim and not stimulating to the child, contributing to middle of the night waking.
Some children especially enjoy background noise or music while catching some Z’s, so try repetitive sounds such as ocean, streams, fans or soft, soothing lullabies. Keep the child's room clutter-free and clean. If allergens are an issue, make sure to run a HEPA filter in the bedroom. This can alleviate any breathing issues that may cause a child to wake during the night.
Sleep is the foundation of health and wellness for everyone. By implementing good sleep habits at an early age, a child will thrive in life. When dealing with sleep issues, it is always a good idea to enlist the services of a professional if extra support is needed.
Jesika DiCampli is a naturopathic physician who practices family style medicine, with pediatrics, women's health, and prenatal care specialties, at Longevity Medical Health Center, in Phoenix. For more information, phone 602-493-2273 or visit LongevityMedical.com.