Pediatric Sleep Disorders: What’s Really Going On With Your Child At Night?

When your child cries out at night from a bad dream, pain or restless sleep, you rush in and comfort him or her. But if your child does this every night, you want to know why. Depending on your child's age, he or she may require as much as 18 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night. When he or she wakes up from bad dreams or some other issue, your child's body doesn't get a chance to grow and be healthy. A sleep disorder specialist can help you find the answers to your little one's inability to sleep soundly and comfortably at night. Here's a common problem your child may face that might lead to his or her bad nights, as well as tips to help you find out what's really going on.

Is It Anxiety?

Your child isn't alone in his or her situation. Up to 40 percent of kids in the United States experience some sort of sleep problem, including night terrors, nightmares and sleepwalking. One of the most common reasons for sleep disorders in children is attending early learning places, such daycare and preschool. Leaving a parent or caregiver for the first time in his or her life may bring on feelings of anxiety in your child.

Although early learning facilities provide the care, education and peer interaction younger kids need to grow and thrive, some children may feel out of place, abandoned or alone when they attend them. You may not have a choice but to place your child in daycare or preschool — especially if you work during the day or have other obligations in your career. If your child is between one and four years of age, he or she may develop separation anxiety issues that carry over into his or her bedtime routine and night sleep.

How Do You Know If It's Separation Anxiety?

There are things you can do to find out if separation anxiety is an issue with your child. Keep in mind that if your child doesn't cry or cling to you when you drop him or her off to daycare or preschool, it doesn't necessarily mean that he or she doesn't have anxiety problems. He or she may wait until you leave to reveal his or her emotional struggles.

You may wish to talk to your child's caregiver or teacher about how your child reacts throughout the day. You might ask questions, such as:

  1. Does your child talk to other children during playtime or group activities, or is he or she quiet and reserved?
  2. Does your child answer questions freely, or does he or she respond only when called upon or addressed directly?
  3. Does your child smile after you leave, or does he or she look sad or depressed until you pick him or her up?
  4. Does your child cry excessively, even after he or she receives one-on-one attention from a teacher or caregiver?

If you answered "yes" to one or more of the questions above, it may indicate that your child has separation anxiety or something similar to it. But to be absolutely sure about this, you should contact a sleep disorder specialist right away. There are many other issues, such as arthritis and other physical ailments, that may cause kids to have nightmares, night terrors or insomnia. 

A sleep disorder specialist can help you develop a treatment plan that encourages your child to overcome his or her sleepless nights. In the meantime, spend extra time with your child before bedtime to help relax and ease his or her mind. Develop a special bedtime routine, such as bathing in soothing and sleep-inducing lavender-scented bath soap, to encourage a good night's sleep. 

You can help your child become a better sleeper if you act now. If you don't, your little one's sleep difficulties can become much bigger problems when he or she gets older.