Bedtime battles: 1 in 4 parents say their child can't sleep because they're worried or anxious

  • Art
  • June 18, 2024

Bedtime battles: 1 in 4 parents say their child can’t sleep because they’re worried or anxious – Many bedtime fights stem from children’s worries after dark, a new national poll shows.

And while most families have bedtime rituals to help their little ones get through the night, many rely on strategies that can increase sleep challenges in the long term, according to the University of Michigan Health CS Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

Overall, one in four parents describe putting their young child to bed as difficult – and these parents are less likely to have a bedtime routine, more likely to step away from a video or TV program, and more likely to stay with their child until they are ready are. sleep.

“Our report reinforces the common struggle to get young children to sleep. When this bedtime transition becomes a nighttime conflict, some parents may fall into habits that work in the moment but could set them up for more sleep problems later,” says Mott Poll Co-Director Sarah Clark, MPH

“Creating a consistent bedtime routine is crucial. If children don’t get enough rest, it can affect their physical development, emotional regulation, and behavior.”

Nearly one in five parents say they have given their children melatonin to help them sleep, while a third stay in the room until their child has completely fallen asleep, according to the nationally representative survey with responses from 781 parents of children aged aged one to six who were surveyed in February.

Nighttime worries disrupt sleep

Parents share common reasons behind bedtime problems. Nearly a quarter say their child’s sleep is often or occasionally delayed because they are worried or anxious.

A particular challenge, parents say, is when children won’t stay asleep. More than a third of parents say their child wakes up angry or crying, with more than 40% saying their child moves to their parents’ bed and about 30% saying children insist the parents sleep in their room.

“Many young children go through phases where they become afraid of the dark or worry that something bad might happen, causing them to delay bedtime or become upset when parents leave the room. Bad dreams or waking in the middle of the night can also occur. disrupt sleep. sleep,” Clark said.

“While this is a normal part of a child’s development, it can be frustrating if parents feel tired at the end of the day. Parents need to find a balance between providing reassurance and comfort, while at the same time setting certain boundaries. maintain that everyone – both children and adults – get enough sleep.”

More findings from the report, plus Clark’s recommendations for helping young children fall and stay asleep:

Stick to a regular bedtime routine

Most parents surveyed report that they have a bedtime routine for their child, often including brushing teeth, reading stories and/or bathing. Less than half also say their child drinks water or a snack, turns off devices, prays and talks about the day.

Other bedtime habits include holding a blanket or stuffed animal or sucking on a pacifier or fingers.

Not only does having a consistent bedtime routine help make the nighttime transition smoother, says Clark, it also provides one-on-one time, which allows the child to get their parents’ full attention.

“A predictable bedtime routine provides a sense of security and comfort and signals to the child that it’s time to slow down,” she said.

“Knowing what to expect next can reduce anxiety and help children feel safe and relaxed. Having this dedicated time with parents also promotes bonding and emotional connection, creating positive associations with bedtime.”

Nearly two-thirds of parents also said that children staying up to play was a major factor in delaying sleep. says Clark, emphasizing that you should wind down at least an hour before bed.

Promote an environment conducive to sleep

Just under half of parents surveyed say their child sleeps in their own bedroom, while less than a quarter share a bedroom with siblings or in the parents’ bedroom. One in ten children spends part of the night in their own bedroom and part of the night with their parents.

More than two-fifths of parents surveyed said noise from other rooms disrupted their child’s sleep.

“The sleep environment can have a major effect on a child’s sleep quality, including falling asleep and staying asleep through the night,” Clark said.

“If possible, children should have their own bed in a quiet room, without a lot of noise from other family members.”

Many parents surveyed also use a nightlight or leave the bedroom door ajar so the child isn’t in complete darkness, Clark says, but parents should make sure the light isn’t shining directly on the child’s face.

Some parents also play soothing music or stories to help their child fall asleep, while others use a white noise machine or app. However, Clark warns to keep white noise machines at no more than 50 decibels and place them at least six feet from the child’s bed to avoid accidental damage to the child’s hearing.

Consult with a doctor before using aids such as melatonin

Many types of melatonin products are advertised as suitable for children, but these products have not been thoroughly tested for safety and effectiveness, and their side effects and long-term effects on a child’s growth and development are unknown, says Clark.

“While melatonin is a natural hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and is fine to use occasionally, parents should not rely on it as a primary sleep aid,” Clark said.

“Parents considering giving melatonin to their young child should first consult their pediatrician to discuss options and rule out other causes of sleep problems.”

If parents use melatonin, they should also start with the lowest possible dose.

In addition, it is important to keep electronics such as tablets or televisions out of the child’s room, as the blue light emitted by many of these screens disrupts the natural production of melatonin.

Provide comfort, but maintain boundaries

Parents can help ease little ones’ anxiety by allowing extra time to let them talk about their day, which can surface specific concerns and give parents a chance to offer compassion and reassurance, Clark said.

Instead of staying in the room, parents can also offer to check on the child every few minutes, which acknowledges the child’s fears and provides a comforting presence, yet maintains a calm sleep environment and promotes sleep independence.

“Families can use comforting rituals to turn nighttime fears into a calming experience,” Clark said.

Provide a consistent approach if children wake up during the night

Some children are prone to vivid dreams or nightmares and may have difficulty going back to sleep. Parents should decide on their approach to this situation and stick to it, Clark says, whether that means putting the child back to bed or allowing them to stay in the parents’ room.

“Being consistent in implementing that approach will help the child adjust and make him more likely to fall asleep again,” Clark said.

Easily cope with changes in sleep patterns, such as dropping naps

For young children, an important sleep-related transition is ending daytime naps. In general, children ages one to two should get 11 to 14 hours of sleep with naps, with the recommended amount of sleep decreasing slightly between ages three to six.

If children take longer to fall asleep at nap, resist naps, or suddenly have trouble falling asleep at night or wake up earlier than usual in the morning, it may be time to forgo the nap. fall, says Clark.

“Parents may need to gradually adjust sleep routines to transition to changes in a child’s sleep patterns,” Clark said.

Other changes that can affect a child’s sleep include moving from a crib to a toddler bed, going to school, a change in daily routine, or being outside longer than usual.

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