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- Mommy, I Can't Sleep! - : Sleep Disturbance in Children

"Just turn the lights off and go to sleep"

Do you find yourself saying this to your child? Well,
you're not alone!!

Sleep problems are some of the most common problems parents
face with their children. Some parents struggle with
getting their child to sleep through the night. New parents
worry about how to help their child learn good sleep habits
that last a lifetime. And still others wonder if their
child's sleep difficulties are chronic and are concerned
that their child may be going through their days

Studies reveal that a significant number of children have
some form of a sleep disturbance. Sleep disturbances among
children and adolescents are common. Prolonged changes in
sleep patterns, if left untreated, can result in significant
emotional, behavioral, and cognitive impairment and can put
your child at risk for poor school performance, accidents,
and social or medical problems. The key is to identify
changes in sleep, and to know when to seek assistance.

Sleep disturbance can take several forms including:

difficulty falling asleep
- trouble staying asleep
- frequently awakening

There also are other variations of sleep issues known as
parasomnias, e.g., night terrors or sleepwalking.

To alleviate your child's sleep disturbance, try these
simple steps:

Keep bedtime at the same time each night: This helps your
child establish a structure and enforces a predictable
- Monitor unnecessary environmental stimuli: Minimize the
light and noise in the child's bedroom (music, lights)
- Encourage pre-bedtime relaxation: Children respond well to
activities that allow them to wind down such as a warm bath,
massage or aromatherapy
- Share some activity: Dedicate time to reading a bedtime
story or talking about your child's day and encouraging
meditation and reflection
- Plan the transition: Ease the child into new processes by
discussing changes and comforting their transition into
healthy sleep habits

Sleep in its natural form is the only way our bodies can
re-charge. Beyond resting, sleep serves many functions
including memory preservation. If your child is not
receiving the quality and quantity of sleep that is required
(typically 8-12 hours each night is optimal), the toll can
be enormous. Performance in school, interacting with others
and activities of daily living may diminish in quality. The
origins of a sleep disturbance may range from anxiety tied
to emotional conflicts, such as fear of an upcoming test or
excitement over a speaking part in the school play, to
medical issues such as apnea. It is important that the
underlying issue be addressed, no matter the source, to
resolve the sleep disturbance and give your child their best
shot at life.

Remember always to take into account where your child is in
their developmental stage, because some sleep issues are
age-appropriate. If you have exhausted the suggestions
listed above, then possibly the need for professional
intervention is warranted. You are the expert when it comes
to your child and their sleep patterns. If you have a
concern, trust your instinct and seek professional advice.

About the Author

Dr. Charles Sophy currently serves as Medical Director for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. He also has a private psychiatry practice in Beverly Hills, California.

Dr. Charles Sophy, author of the 'Keep 'Em Off My Couch' blog, provides real simple answers for solving life's biggest problems. To contact Dr. Sophy, visit his blog at


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