Sleep Problems in Children – a Growing Epidemic

So many of us have suffered with sleep difficulties during the pandemic and it seems that children and teenagers are no different. The uncertainties we have experienced during the last 15 months, school bubbles bursting and an increased reliance on technology have all contributed. One of the first things to go out of the window when life gets tough is a regular bedtime. How can we get our children back on track? Up to a quarter of children have a sleep issue at some point, and yet we all know that adequate sleep is really important. Good quality sleep is needed for our bodies to grow and repair, helps mental wellbeing and increases concentration and memory. Lack of sleep contributes to an increased risk for behavioural problems in children.

One of the difficulties with being out of routine can be traced to our body clocks. Although the day/night cycle is measured as 24 hours, our internal body clock doesn’t quite match this and has a rhythm of 24 hours and 11 minutes. This means that we get out of step quite quickly if we don’t go to bed at our usual time and it makes getting up for work or school feel like we’ve got jetlag! If you try simply putting your child to bed at a much earlier time, they won’t be sleepy and you will probably end up feeling stressed and frustrated. Parents are telling me that many children are struggling to get to sleep in the evening and also waking in the night, which is exhausting for the whole family.

It’s worth checking out your child’s sleep environment. Think about whether their bed and mattress is comfortable, getting rid of excessive and distracting clutter, checking room temperature and whether the curtains keep out the light sufficiently. We know that technology can get in the way of good sleep, so getting some routines in place can help with this issue. The blue light emitted by screens can interfere with the hormone melatonin which regulates our sleep/ wake cycle. This is why current advice from paediatricians is to have at least an hour away from screens before bedtime. How about having a tech amnesty before bed where all devices are left to charge overnight downstairs? You never know, you might find yourself not only modelling a good example for your child, but also getting a better night’s sleep yourself! I will be covering all of this and much more in my sleep webinar where you will also discover what sleep cycles are and why it matters, how to adjust your child’ body clock, strategies for better bedtimes and night waking.