Sleeping problems are very common between the ages of two and four, even in children who slept well before then. Teething, mild infections and bad dreams can also cause sleeping problems. Many parents are concerned about their children's sleeping habits, especially problems around getting to sleep or staying asleep. Sleeping problems are troublesome because lack of sleep, by either children or adults, can lead to difficulties in functioning well during the day.
Here are some suggestions that may help you deal with sleeping problems:
- Make sure you have a consistent bedtime routine. This means carrying out bathtime, storytime and any other bedtime rituals at the same time and in a calm way. Avoid exciting games, such as running or rough play before bedtime. Calm music and a warm bath can also be relaxing.
- Encourage your child to sleep with a special toy or blanket. This can help your child feel more comforted about being separated from you at bedtime.
- Leave a light on in your child's room or the hallway. This can comfort a child who seems to be genuinely scared of the dark. If your child is afraid, do not minimize these feelings. Listen to his concerns, but let him know that you believe that he can cope.
Sometimes a child who has overcome sleeping problems may have them re-appear because of illness, bad dreams or a change in the family situation (such as moving house, her parents' separation or a new sibling). This is to be expected, and you will need to re-establish the sleep routine and coping strategies. Gradually, when your child feels safe, secure and able to cope, she will learn to fall asleep and stay asleep on her own.