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Sleep disorders in Toddlers

By Dr Evelyn Lewin

Posted  June 8 2015 | 0 Shares

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Stacey Price had never heard of night terrors before her son, William, started having them when he was two. “He would start yelling, screaming and crying in the middle of the night,” she says. “We would race in to work out what was going on, [only] to find he had no idea we were in the room.” Advanced maternity and child sleep consultant Amanda Bude says this is typical for night terrors. “When a child is experiencing a night terror he may scream and appear anxious and may not recognise you when you approach him,” says Bude. Stacey and her husband found the episodes so distressing, they turned to Google to discover what was happening. “Once we understood [that these were] night terrors… I felt helpless and sorry for him.” Even though William didn’t recognise her during an episode, Stacey naturally wanted to console him. She and her husband “tried everything” to settle him, but found nothing worked. While Bude understands Stacey’s desire to help William at that time, she says the best thing to do during a night terror is to monitor your child (to keep them physically safe), “But avoid interfering, as this can worsen the episode”.

William had frequent night terrors when he was younger, but now that he is now four and a half he thankfully only has them infrequently. They also never last long, staying within the expected timeframe of five to 15 minutes (though, Stacey admits, five minutes “feels like two hours” in the middle of the night). While they sound similar, night terrors should not be confused with nightmares. Night terrors occur during non-REM sleep and usually happen within two to four hours of going to sleep. The child can’t be consoled during an episode, and doesn’t remember it afterwards. One of the most common causes of night terrors is sleep deprivation.

 On the other hand, nightmares occur during REM sleep, near the end of a sleep period. Children who have nightmares can recall them after, and can be comforted. If your child has nightmares, avoid scary games and books, especially before bed. Then, if he wakes with a nightmare, respond quickly and offer plenty of reassurance that he’s safe. To reduce the chance of your toddler having either sleep issue, it’s important they get enough sleep. Bude says toddlers need an average of 12-14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.

While it’s easy to say they need that much sleep, getting a toddler to sleep can be hard work. They may resist bedtime for a number of reasons, including their increased desire for independence along with rapidly advancing motor, cognitive and social abilities. They may also suffer separation anxiety, making them unwilling to be left alone at night. All these factors may mean toddlers have difficulty getting enough sleep, which can lead to overtiredness. The tricky part, Bude explains, is: “Chronically overtired children may not seem tired, and don’t always act tired”. She says signs of tiredness in toddlers include:

  • Being whiny, fussy or clingy
  • Sucking their thumb or finger
  • Carrying their blanket or stuffed toy around during the day
  • Being hyperactive (especially at times when you think they should be tired)’
  • Having regular temper tantrums (or becoming easily upset or angry)
  • Having difficulty falling asleep when put to bed
  •  Falling asleep frequently when in the car, or in front of the TV
  •  Taking a long time to wake in the morning 

To help your toddler get enough sleep, it’s important to create a relaxing bedtime routine. Bude recommends giving your child lots of choices in the lead-up towards bed, for example, letting him decide which pyjamas to wear and which books he wants. “This will make him feel in control and less likely to resist when it’s time for light’s out,” Bude explains. Add in a relaxing bath, quiet story time and plenty of cuddles and kisses. But while your child’s bedtime routine should be relaxing, rules are still needed to ensure he doesn’t try stalling techniques, power plays or resistance. The importance of a good bedtime routine can’t be overstated, as it leads children to feel secure. It also optimises their chance of getting enough sleep, making them less likely to suffer from sleep disorders.

“All children need a comforting bedtime routine, and they need it from early infancy right up through the school years,” says Bude. “It gives them a healthy sense of predictability and it’s a wonderful opportunity for parents and children to slow down and reconnect peacefully at the end of the day.”

By Evelyn Lewin

See:  http://www.groovybabies.com.au for more information on Amanda Bude

 

Reviewed by Dr Evelyn Lewin 8 June 2015 references
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This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

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Sleep disorders in Toddlers

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Stacey Price had never heard of night terrors before her son, William, started having them when he was two. “He would start yelling, screaming and crying in the middle of the night,” she says. “We would race in to work out what was going on, [only] to find he had no idea we were in the room.” Advanced maternity and child sleep consultant Amanda Bude says this is typical for night terrors. “When a child is experiencing a night terror he may scream and appear anxious and may not recognise you when you approach him,” says Bude. Stacey and her husband found the episodes so distressing, they turned to Google to discover what was happening. “Once we understood [that these were] night terrors… I felt helpless and sorry for him.” Even though William didn’t recognise her during an episode, Stacey naturally wanted to console him. She and her husband “tried everything” to settle him, but found nothing worked. While Bude understands Stacey’s desire to help William at that time, she says the best thing to do during a night terror is to monitor your child (to keep them physically safe), “But avoid interfering, as this can worsen the episode”.

William had frequent night terrors when he was younger, but now that he is now four and a half he thankfully only has them infrequently. They also never last long, staying within the expected timeframe of five to 15 minutes (though, Stacey admits, five minutes “feels like two hours” in the middle of the night). While they sound similar, night terrors should not be confused with nightmares. Night terrors occur during non-REM sleep and usually happen within two to four hours of going to sleep. The child can’t be consoled during an episode, and doesn’t remember it afterwards. One of the most common causes of night terrors is sleep deprivation.

 On the other hand, nightmares occur during REM sleep, near the end of a sleep period. Children who have nightmares can recall them after, and can be comforted. If your child has nightmares, avoid scary games and books, especially before bed. Then, if he wakes with a nightmare, respond quickly and offer plenty of reassurance that he’s safe. To reduce the chance of your toddler having either sleep issue, it’s important they get enough sleep. Bude says toddlers need an average of 12-14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period.

While it’s easy to say they need that much sleep, getting a toddler to sleep can be hard work. They may resist bedtime for a number of reasons, including their increased desire for independence along with rapidly advancing motor, cognitive and social abilities. They may also suffer separation anxiety, making them unwilling to be left alone at night. All these factors may mean toddlers have difficulty getting enough sleep, which can lead to overtiredness. The tricky part, Bude explains, is: “Chronically overtired children may not seem tired, and don’t always act tired”. She says signs of tiredness in toddlers include:

  • Being whiny, fussy or clingy
  • Sucking their thumb or finger
  • Carrying their blanket or stuffed toy around during the day
  • Being hyperactive (especially at times when you think they should be tired)’
  • Having regular temper tantrums (or becoming easily upset or angry)
  • Having difficulty falling asleep when put to bed
  •  Falling asleep frequently when in the car, or in front of the TV
  •  Taking a long time to wake in the morning 

To help your toddler get enough sleep, it’s important to create a relaxing bedtime routine. Bude recommends giving your child lots of choices in the lead-up towards bed, for example, letting him decide which pyjamas to wear and which books he wants. “This will make him feel in control and less likely to resist when it’s time for light’s out,” Bude explains. Add in a relaxing bath, quiet story time and plenty of cuddles and kisses. But while your child’s bedtime routine should be relaxing, rules are still needed to ensure he doesn’t try stalling techniques, power plays or resistance. The importance of a good bedtime routine can’t be overstated, as it leads children to feel secure. It also optimises their chance of getting enough sleep, making them less likely to suffer from sleep disorders.

“All children need a comforting bedtime routine, and they need it from early infancy right up through the school years,” says Bude. “It gives them a healthy sense of predictability and it’s a wonderful opportunity for parents and children to slow down and reconnect peacefully at the end of the day.”

By Evelyn Lewin

See:  http://www.groovybabies.com.au for more information on Amanda Bude

 

Reviewed by Lisa Kelly 8 June 2015
references
  • current version

  • PEER REVIEWER

  • Doc id

  • next review

This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

make a comment

0 comments

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latest articles

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MEET THE EXPERTS

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