Night Waking Troubles Level Off by Age 10

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Working parents who have small children with night waking problem find themselves working two jobs a day. Imagine coming home after a day's hard work, cooking dinner, doing the laundry. tucking your child in m bed. and as soon as you collapse into bed, you hear your child and calling for you. You ignore it, hoping for the child m quiet down but the crying and calling becomes persistent and louder! 
A survey of 13,000 children indicates indicates that about  1 in 4 children have sleeping problems. Most common problems with regard to sleeping were difficulty with getting to sleep, night waking, early waking and nightmares. The most common problem for children's onset of sleep problems is mother's hospital stay during pregnancy.  Fears are often repeated as a common cause of sleep disturbance. However. a cause that is often ignored is that children simply don't want to leave the company of their parents.  They want their parents around all the time. Think about that. no body is going talk to them,  play with them, or caress them after the "good night" kiss is delivered, and the child's bedroom lights are turned off. For a child, it is paradise lost.  Some fun-loving children simply can't stand being left by themselves.

Sleep disturbance  can make a child irritable. Maladjusted  at school and difficult to get along with other peers.  Night-waking children may also develop physical problems, such as headaches, stomach ache, skin rashes, abdominal pain, wheezing, whooping cough, etc.  Night waking is very common in children with asthma or eczema.  Night wakers, by and large, continue to have sleeping problems in the first few years of life.

It would comfort parents to know that by age 10 the night wakers have adjusted to their problem and do not differ much from other children in regard to physical problems, educational achievement or overall physical development.

Tips for the parents:  The bottom line is that if a child does not have a serious physical or emotional cause for sleep disturbance, he or she simply needs to be taught to fall asleep alone.
These guidelines are given by Jodi Mindell and Mark Duran:

1 . Establish a specific bed time and sack and stick to it strictly and consistently 
2. Initiate a pleasant 20 m 30 minute bed time routine, including such activities as brushing the teeth, undressing, putting on pajamas. listening to a bedtime story etc. 
3. Put the child in his or her own bed when he or she is still awake.  In other words, do not wait to put the child to bed until the child has gone to sleep, because when the child wakes up and does not find the parent or parents round, he or she is most likely to cry.  A child has to learn to sleep alone sooner or later.
If the child cries, follow the "gradual extinction" approach, explained below.
According to the gradual extinction approach, once parents put the child into bed and the child starts crying, they are to ignore the crying for longer and longer periods of time.  For some parents, this may sound harsh and unresponsive to the child.  However, if you look at it in the long term, this can be the least painful approach,.

This is what this approach advises you to do.  On day one, let the child cry five minutes before you go into the child's room and comfort the child.  Then, after day or two, wait for 10 minutes before you go and comfort the child.  After four or five days, increase the waiting time to 15 minutes.

Her are some guidelines on how to comfort the child:  Simply go to the room and reassure the child.  Do not turn on the lights or pick up the child.  If the child gets out of bed, return him or her to bed, matter-of-factly, without scolding, fussing, hugging, or engaging in baby talk.

Some sleep problems are caused by physical trauma or emotional trauma or anxiety for something that is threatening a child in his or her environment.  That cause needs to be investigated.  If the child has severe problems, take him or her to a child expert for evaluation and arrange for the child to get treatment.

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



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