The 10 Golden Rules for Children’s Sleep
One in four children under the age of 5 suffers from sleep disorders, while after the age of 6 and into adolescence the percentage is around 10-12%. The most common sleep disorders in childhood are: insomnia (20-30%), parasomnia (25%), circadian rhythm disorders (7%), sleep respiratory disorders (2-3%), sleep-related movement disorders (1-2%), hypersonics (0.01-0.20%).
The 10 golden rules for children’s sleep One in four children under the age of 5 suffers from sleep disorders, while after 6 years and until adolescence the percentage is around 10-12%. The most common sleep disorders in childhood are: insomnia (20-30%), parasomnia (25%), circadian rhythm disorders (7%), sleep respiratory disorders (2-3%), sleep-related movement disorders (1-2%), hypersonics (0.01-0.20%). Sleep disorders have different causes, from organic to poor sleep hygiene. Genetic factors (studies on twins and familiarity have shown, for example, a strong genetic influence in insomnia) and birth order play an important role: some studies report a higher frequency of insomnia in firstborns and single children. Even a possible maternal depression can be the cause of insomnia in a child. Parents may, on the other hand, manifest themselves during awakenings, among them the tendency, for example, to rush immediately and take the child in the arms both at sleep and during awakenings and the habit of sharing the bed of parents, the so-called cosleeping.
Prevention in the first year of life is very important because the wrong habits acquired during this period will make it more difficult to have a sleep autonomy even in the following years. Prevent sleep disorders you can. Here are 10 golden rules to promote proper hygiene of children’s sleep:
- Respect the time of the bed every night. Habitual the little one from an early age to always fall asleep at the same time, adapting the rhythms of the family to those of the child and not vice versa (if you keep the child awake because the dad arrives late and wants to play moves forward all his sleep). Good habits must be maintained and consolidated throughout growth, varying them by age. 2. Make the child sleep always in the same environment (whether his bedroom or in the first months that of the parents) properly prepared, with soft lights without devices on, and possibly with a sweet and monotonous music in the background. Do not put him to sleep in different environments, such as on the couch in the room while watching television. We build and maintain the same rituals of approaching sleep.
- Detach the feeding phase from the phase of sleep. In the first two or three months of life lacks the phase of sleep, in the sense that it is not possible to accurately recognize when the baby is collapsing. In the following months, however, as soon as you notice some signals (no longer sucking strongly, closes your eyes) you have to detach it from the breast and put it in the cot.
- Respect meal times during the day. Even if the child goes to the nursery try to keep the same lunch, snack and dinner times, adjusting our schedules to his.
- Never use your tablet or other electronic devices after dinner. Turn off everything at least an hour before falling asleep. Device light reduces the production of melatonin that promotes sleep. Keep all electronic devices, including television, computer and mobile phone out of the bedroom.
- Don’t give too much food or water before bed. Avoid milk or other liquids including chamomile during awakenings, prefer rather to use a consoling object to fall asleep, such as pacifier for example.
- Carefully adjust light exposure. For the afternoon nap keep the light of the environment; reduce exposure as much as possible for the night; boost the light as soon as you wake up. Our waking sleep rhythm, like that of our children, is governed by the alternation of light and darkness.
- Avoid exciting substances after 4 p.m. No to tea, only deteined in case, no to caffeinated drinks and no to chocolate.
- Encourage a balanced diet. With a suitable intake of liquids during the day. Prefer foods containing fiber and tryptophan which is a precursor to melatonin, such as white meats, blue fish, green vegetables, legumes and cereals.
- No to children in Latvian. To allow them to be autonomy also means to let them sleep in their own environment. In cases of awakening, always bring them back to their cot.
By SIP – Pediatric Italian Society. Last revisited 19 June 2020
Marco Angriman. Child Neuropsychiatrist, Neurology and Neurorehabilitation Service for Evolutionary Age, Central Hospital of Bolzano
Emanuela Malorgio. Family Pediatrician SICUPP
Oliviero Bruni. Child Neuropsychiatrist