Common sleep problems for young children
Not staying in bed or not sleeping
A bedtime routine is the best place to start, but it takes practice to get to used to! If your child gets up, keep taking them back to bed with as little fuss as possible.
Anticipating regular requests can help ease the transition: make sure they’re changed or visit the toilet before bed, and keep a beaker of water within reach if they get thirsty.
If they’re not sleepy, you may need to adjust the timing of daytime naps so they’re not too close to bedtime. Getting enough activity during the day also ensures they’re tired at night.
It’s worth checking meal and snack-times aren’t throwing off your sleep schedule either.
Disrupted sleeping patterns
It’s natural for sleep patterns to change from time to time: often it’s just because your little one is growing and developing, or extra tired from learning lots of new skills. They may also be reacting to changes in the family routine – for instance when you’re all away from home. Sticking to the usual bedtime routine can help your little one feel more secure and at ease.
Most children have trouble sleeping every now and then but, if you’re concerned lack of sleep is becoming a problem, your GP can signpost you to specialist support. Talk to your doctor or health visitor too if you think illness or medication is affecting your child’s sleep.
Too worried to sleep
Encouraging your little ones to talk about their anxieties means they’re less likely to brood over them in bed. It’s quite common for children to worry about monsters and scary things too: talk about what’s worrying them, reassure them you’re close by, and leave the door ajar (or use a night light).
Crying or screaming
Any of the common sleeping problems above can cause young children to cry at night, so it’s worth running through the ones above first. Toddlers may also cry as a way to show their independence: try offering limited choices in their bedtime routine, for example, which bedtime story to read, or which night clothes they wear. If your little one can’t sleep because of pain or illness, get advice from your GP or health visitor (to put your mind at rest, too).
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