Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My Child Won't Sleep

If an adult does not sleep well, we act tired. If one of our children does not sleep well: they may act tired; act out with behavioral problems; do poorly in school; have concentration problems; or even act hyper. In fact when a child is diagnosed with (ADHD) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, astute doctors and allied health care providers (such as physician assistants) will often look for a sleep disorder in the child before starting medications. Here are some things you might consider as you Talk About concerns with your health care provider.

Somewhere between six weeks to six months of age your child should begin to sleep more at night and less during the day.

An infant may need 18 hours of sleep, a 2 year-old may need 12, a 10 year-old may need 10, a teenager needs 8-9 (which is still more than an adult’s average 7-8).

Human sleep cycles through stages every 90-120 minutes (light sleep, deep sleep, and dream (REM) sleep), and it is quite normal for your child to wake up with each of these cycles. The key is to make your child a self-soother and not a signaler.

By placing your child into bed before they are asleep, you allow them to learn to fall asleep in the environment of the bed (soothing their own self). If you rock them to sleep and then place them in bed, each time they wake up they will signal you (probably by screaming and crying) to recreate the rocking environment in which you have taught them to fall asleep.

Bright light signals the clock in the human brain (our circadian rhythm) to wake up and get ready for morning. A sleep environment should be dark (a dim nightlight is okay), quiet, and a good temperature. TV and video games are horrible for sleep and should be limited or kept off entirely as bedtime approaches.

We believe sleep is as important as wakefulness in our house, and we make each an equal priority. In addition to talking with your kid’s health care provider you might also look through
http://www.sleepforkids.org/. If you have other suggestions, for future health/wellness articles please email, tweet, or leave a comment.



  1. We have terrible sleepers at our house; I think we're just not disciplined enough to (a) give them a schedule and (b) let them cry. Luckily, our 4-yr-old son is a great nighttime sleeper now, so we're hoping the 1-yr-old daughter will eventually follow suit. She does fall asleep by herself sometimes after crying a few minutes. He got to 45 minutes of crying before we couldn't handle it anymore!

  2. Sleep is a big deal at our house!!! We're HUGE early bedtime people - my three year old still sleeps 12-13 hours at night, as does my one year old, who also takes at least one 2 hour nap each day! I think many people don't realize how overtired their kids are, and how much that affects their health, behavior, etc.

    I blogged about our bedtime routine here: http://runwatchplaywait.blogspot.com/2009/05/blessings-of-early-bedtime.html