Children often find sleeping through the night difficult. Infant sleep tends to be very light, and a sleeping baby will often wake up several times a night. Toddler sleep problems can also prevent sleeping through the night, and teens also have notoriously erratic sleep habits.
Sleeping through the night is important for proper growth and development. A child’s immune system, learning, memory and emotional state all suffer when sleep problems develop.
Occasionally, getting a child to sleep through the night means helping him overcome issues such as separation anxiety, fear of the dark, nightmares, strange noises and other complaints.
How Much Sleep Does a Child Need?
Children require different amounts of sleep depending on their age. In general, a child should get approximately this much sleep:
- Newborns: Up to 18 hours a day
- Infants: A sleeping baby requires 14 to 15 hours of sleep a day
- One to three years: 12 to 14 hours of sleep
- Three to five years: 11 to 13 hours of sleep
- Five to twelve years: 10 to 11 hours of sleep
- Teenagers: 9 to 10 hours of sleep.
Here are some tips for helping an infant sleep through the night:
- Create a quiet, consistent, comforting nighttime ritual for the baby. Bedtime routines can include a warm bath, singing, rocking, reading or cuddling.
- Offer a baby her last feeding of the night shortly before bedtime. If a sleeping baby wakes up for a feeding during the night, keep the room as dark as possible and provide only necessary interaction. Unnecessary stimulation may prevent her from falling back asleep.
- Lay the baby down in the crib before she is deeply asleep. This teaches her to fall asleep on her own. A sleeping baby should never lie on his or her stomach, as this increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
Toddler Sleep Problems
Sleeping through the night does not come easily to some children. Toddler sleep problems range from power struggles with parents to serious sleep disorders.
Toddlers are beginning to realize they have some power over events, and resisting bedtime is a common occurrence. Bedtime power struggles can include whining, negotiating or full-blown tantrums. A toddler who is allowed some decision-making power in nighttime routines may be less likely to fight bedtime. Such decisions should not interfere with bedtime itself, but could include choice of bedtime stories, quiet games before bed or choosing pajamas.
Teething pains, nightmares and growing pains are common toddler sleep problems, and are usually temporary. Bedwetting can prevent a child from sleeping through the night, but is rarely cause for concern. Most children outgrow bedwetting.
Some toddler sleep problems â€” such as snoring, sleep walking or night terrors â€” could indicate the presence of sleep disorders. If these conditions occur on a regular basis they should be reported to the child’s doctor.
Helpguide. (2010). How much sleep do you need? Retrieved August 26, 2010, from http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleeping.htm.
Nemours Foundation. (2008). Sleep and your 1-to 2-year-old. Retrieved September 16, 2010, from http://kidshealth.org/parent/growth/sleep/sleep12yr.html#.
What to Expect. (2010). Help for toddler sleep problems. Retrieved September 16, 2010, from http://www.whattoexpect.com/toddler-sleep-problems.aspx.