In the first few weeks, day-night reversal of sleep is common and newborn babies will have irregular sleep patterns. Smiling, grimacing, sucking, snuffling and body movements such as twists and jerks may be misinterpreted as restless or disturbed sleep by parents.
If a newborn is extremely fussy and difficult to settle, consult a doctor.
Difficulty in falling asleep and night waking with failure to settle usually occurs in this age group.
- Night waking infants usually calm when picked up. This pattern develops because parents provide secondary gains for remaining awake. You should ignore the child’s cries initially for short intervals and then for progressively longer intervals and finally stop responding. It might sound harsh but you have to be consistent. Initially it will be difficult but later you will succeed in training your child sleep through the night.
- If the above method is difficult, you can try scheduled awakening. You should anticipate the child’s awakenings and wake him up at scheduled times, shortly before the anticipated awakening. This would decrease the number of spontaneous awakenings. Slowly, the length of intervals between scheduled awakenings can be increased. As a result, spontaneous awakenings will subside and scheduled awakenings can be stopped.
- You can try camping. In this, you sit next to the child and pat him to sleep. If your child falls asleep, then the next day you can just stay beside the cot without patting till the child falls asleep. Slowly you can move your chair away from the child’s bed, to outside the room. The process may take longer and tax your energy and stamina.
Sleep Issues seen in toddlers are:
- Night waking
- Nighttime fears
- Difficulty in initiating and maintaining sleep
You can establish a positive bedtime routine for a child which would include taking up a series of pleasurable activities in the 20-minute period before bedtime (like reading a story, a song). Praise the child after each activity. At the end of 20 minutes, you should ask your child to go to sleep. If your child resists, tell him firmly that he should go to sleep. Later on, you can shorten the positive bedtime period by five to ten minutes each week, until your child has an acceptable bedtime.
Nightmares are common in children, between three and four years of age. During this he can wake up screaming and crying. This usually occurs when he has seen a scary video or heard a scary story. So you can help him by making sure that he avoids such scary things, be it books, videos or stories. Reassure him that you are there and he has no reason to be afraid. If he has a nightmare, cuddle him.
If your child wakes up screaming and doesn’t respond to what you say, he is probably having a night terror. It occurs when he is in deep sleep because of which he doesn’t respond. You don’t have to worry as your child will slowly grow out of episodes of night terror. If there is any stress in his life, make him come out of it.
There is nothing to worry. The child may speak to himself or appear to be having a conversation with others. The only problem is that the child can wake up others with his behavior.
Sleepwalking can be dangerous. A child does it in deep sleep and may not be aware of what he is doing. You should, therefore, ensure your child’s safety by locking the doors and windows. Don’t shake, slap or shout at the child when he is sleepwalking. If you are worried, then you can maintain a diary of the child’s sleepwalking times and then wake him up 15 minutes before his sleepwalking time. Make sure that the child has been fully awake for at least five minutes. This technique works.