Sleep problems in children include nightmares, night terrors and sleepwalking, not wanting to go to bed, and waking up during the night.
What are nightmares?
Nightmares are scary dreams.
Lots of children have nightmares
Nightmares aren't a problem unless your child starts having a lot of them
Stress and watching scary or violent movies can cause nightmares
If your child has a lot of nightmares, try to find out what’s causing them by keeping a diary with notes about when they happen and what they're about
What are night terrors?
Night terrors are episodes where your child screams and seems panicked shortly after falling asleep.
Night terrors are most common between ages 3 and 8
Some children with night terrors also sleepwalk
Your child may scream, look scared, breathe quickly, and sweat, but your child is not really awake so can’t be comforted and won’t answer questions
Unlike with nightmares, children don't remember having had a night terror
Night terrors usually go away on their own
Go to a doctor if your child has so many night terrors that it affects the amount of sleep your child gets or if night terrors still happen after age 12
What is sleepwalking?
In sleepwalking, children get out of bed and walk around even though they're still asleep. When they wake up, most children don't remember sleepwalking.
Children usually outgrow sleepwalking. Until they do, these steps may help your child avoid injury:
Move things your child could trip on
Lower the bed or put the mattress on the floor to prevent falls
Keep doors and windows closed and locked
Install a bed alarm that goes off when your child leaves the bed
Gently lead your child back to bed
Why don't some children go to bed easily?
It's sometimes hard to get children into bed at bedtime.
Children less than 2 years old may not want to go to bed because they don't want to leave you (separation anxiety Separation Anxiety and Stranger Anxiety As infants develop intellectually and emotionally, they quickly learn to recognize and become attached to their parents or primary caregivers. As this bond strengthens, infants often become... read more )
Older children may resist going to bed as a way to gain control
Children who sleep very late some days may simply not be tired at bedtime
Watching exciting videos before bed can keep a child up
To help your child go to bed on time, you can:
Keep your child on a regular bedtime schedule
Give your child a teddy bear or object for comfort
Use a small night light or white noise machine
Sit quietly in the hallway where your child can see you and you can make sure your child stays in bed
Your goal is for your child to learn to fall asleep without you there. Leave the room once your child is quiet in bed but before your child falls asleep.
Why do infants and young children wake up during the night?
Everyone wakes up during the night. Most people fall back to sleep easily on their own. Children sometimes have a hard time going back to sleep.
By age 3 months, most children sleep for at least 5 hours at a time
Stressful events, such as being sick, can cause children to wake up more often during the night
Taking long naps in the afternoon, playing before bedtime, or some health problems can make children more likely to wake up during the night
To help children stay asleep at night or go back to sleep on their own:
Have the same bedtime routine each night
Read a short story together before bed
Offer a favorite toy or blanket to sleep with
Have children fall asleep in their own crib or bed—don't teach your child to fall asleep somewhere else and then get moved to the crib or bed while asleep
Let your child cry for a few minutes and settle down
If your child wakes up during the night:
Don't play with or feed your child
Don't spank or scold your child
Return your child to bed and tell your child it's time to sleep