Every child has their own way and need to sleep. Adequate sleep and rest are needed to ensure the child’s growth and physical and mental balance. Adequate sleep promotes the development of the child’s central nervous system energy and ability to concentrate. It is also important for mood, the development of self-confidence and adaptation to the environment.
A 6-month-old baby sleeps about 14 hours a day. At the age of 8-10 months, a child most often sleeps a long night’s sleep and one nap during the day. From the age of 6 months, many children will do nutritionally without night feeds, some still need a meal early in the morning. Even if the child no longer eats at night, he may still wake up in the lighter stages of sleep. When waking up, a child needs a sense of security and may need the help of an adult to be able to fall asleep again. Many times, when a child wakes up, he demands milk from a bottle or breast, even if he is not hungry. If a child has fallen asleep with milk in the evening, it is most natural for him to get it even when he wakes up at night. That is, the child wants the same conditions when waking up at night as when falling asleep in the evening. This is called a sleep association.
It is common for children and their parents to suffer from sleep-related problems at the age of 6-9 months. Motor development, tooth development, and compassion are individual causes of the problems. At this age, the baby’s motor as well as emotional development is very rapidly advancing, which contributes to sleep. Getting a child to sleep may be difficult when the child learns to turn, learns to get up, or learns to crawl.
The amount of a child’s daytime sleep is affected by his or her own physiological rhythm, sleep rhythm, the time of waking up in the morning, and the quality of the night’s sleep. A small child cannot sleep more than he or she needs. The stimuli and activities provided by an adult during the day, intimacy, and adequate and regular food intake are important for sleep. Falling asleep is made easier if situations occur during the child’s day on a regular and similar basis. The sleeping area should be safe and regular ventilation of the bedroom is important for the child to breathe easily.
At about six months of age, a child’s sleep begins to resemble an adult’s sleep. In this case, the child’s active sleep phase is much like an adult’s REM sleep. REM (Rapid eye movements) sleep is a condition in which the electrocardiogram, or EEG registration, shows a waking state, but the body’s musculature is paralyzed except for the muscles of the breath and eyes. During this time, active dreams are seen and the person is easily awakened. REM sleep has functions that promote the organization of the brain. REM sleep is needed more than normal during periods of intense development, when a child learns new knowledge and skills. During it, the brain also deals with powerful and worrying events.
The child’s second stage of sleep is deep sleep (NREM sleep or Non rapid eye movements), in which the electroencephalogram is smooth and rhythmic. It involves four stages of depth, after which sleep is lightened again. The stages of sleep alternate in periods of about an hour and during a light sleep the child may wake up more easily. For some, waking up is complete, others just wake up lightly, after which sleep continues again towards the deeper stages.
What are the disadvantages of sleep deprivation in a small child?
The staying awake time of a small child increases as the central nervous system develops. There can be large differences in the sleep needs of children of the same age. When assessing the quality of sleep, it should be borne in mind that a child may have a physical ailment or illness that causes sleep problems. These can be, for example, allergies, reflux or an infectious disease. If the baby’s night waking is profuse and it is difficult to fall asleep, it may result in daytime fatigue that makes the baby grumpy and restless. Sleep deprivation is when a child has daytime symptoms due to too little sleep. A child’s sleep deprivation manifests as poor mood, difficult care, energy deficiency, restlessness, and a lack of concentration. Prolonged sleep deprivation is detrimental to a child’s psychomotor development.
A baby’s sleep is linked to parental well-being, maternal depression, and the relationship between parents. In families with infant sleep disorders, parents have been found to find their parenting more stressful compared to parents whose babies sleep well. In addition, the parent of a baby with a sleep disorder more often than other parents finds their baby’s temperament difficult. Parents of a poorly sleeping baby may experience feelings of failure, inadequacy, guilt, despair, and insecurity. Parenting load and stress levels increase as the baby sleeps poorly. Parents experience more physical and mental exhaustion, anxiety, and health problems. They also feel that their own well-being is worse than average.
Family interactions are often strained when a child has difficulty developing a sleep rhythm or the child has an actual sleep disorder. According to a Swedish study conducted in 2012, one third of parents of young children end up divorced. One of the reasons for the break up was the burden of parenthood. Studies also show that fathers may experience significant sleep disturbances after the baby is born. It has been found that the newborn has fewer nocturnal awakenings when the father is involved in the holistic care of the baby. A previous single study has shown that both parents have found their relationship more satisfactory after a 14-month-old child’s sleep intervention. However, the researchers found in their study that the newborn’s sleep was not related to how satisfying the mothers and fathers felt about their relationship.
A parent may have feelings of anger towards their child when they wake up at night. Mothers with children with severe and chronic sleep disorders are more likely to suffer from major depression. A child with sleep disorders is much more likely to be abused or even beaten than a child who sleeps well at night.
The parent’s thoughts and assumptions, or cognitions, affect the interaction between the child and the parent. What matters is how the parent’s expectations and assumptions guide the interpretation of the child’s behavior and messages, and how to respond to those messages. Mentalization ability is how well a parent is able to reflect on and interpret what the child’s own experience is behind his or her restlessness or crying and what the child expects from his or her parent. This is a prerequisite for the sensitivity of the interaction, i.e. how sensitive the parent is to the child’s messages. The interaction is negative if the parent thinks the child’s unwanted behavior is intentional. Understanding and accepting a child’s difficulty sleeping requires a high level of mentalization from the parent, which in turn is temporarily lacking in a deeply exhausted and unsupported parent.
What are the most typical sleep problems for a baby?
Babies ’sleep problems are usually benign, associated with different sleeping habits. Sleep disorders are common, at some point every tenth or even every fourth child or young person suffers from them. A child who wakes up 2-4 times a night for more than a week or who sleeps most of their sleep during the day is considered to have a sleep problem. The most common sleep disorders in infants are difficulty falling asleep, too short a uniform night’s sleep, and waking up too early. Repeated night waking is the most stressful for the family, occurring in 10-15% of young children. A common problem in infancy is that the child wakes up repeatedly during the night. The baby is not used to falling asleep on his own but has always been put to bed. This chain of events is called sleep association. According to the physiological structure, the baby’s sleep is lightened every hour and as a result the baby wakes up and cries because the place and / or situation is different than when falling asleep. Typically, the baby calms down as soon as the parent arrives and the associated sleep ritual is renewed. The usual associated sleep pattern is alongside falling asleep in the middle of eating. The baby is alarmed when waking up from a different place later at night. Awakening at night may also be due to the difficulty of weaning the child from nocturnal feeding. The child may fall asleep on their own, but wakes up to demand to eat a few times a night. Weaning from night eating can be started when the baby is six months old, because after that the baby does not need night feeds for nutritional reasons. In weaning from night feeds, for example, the paw method can be used whenever the baby wakes up.
Parental activity plays a significant role in how a child’s sleep-wake rhythm is formed. Various parenting factors that can contribute to a young child’s sleep disorder include a parent’s own separation anxiety, skewed expectations, assumptions, and thoughts about the child’s sleep, as well as mental symptoms, a substance abuse problem, or a quarrelsome relationship between parents. Early interaction problems and insecure attachment can also adversely affect a child’s sleep. The parent may themselves suffer from separation anxiety due to the parent’s own deficient separation process. If a parent’s own early needs are largely unmet, the child’s needs can inspire him or her to maintain an early relationship and fulfill all of the child’s desires.
A parent experiencing separation anxiety may not trust the child’s ability to fall asleep on their own and may interfere with the child’s learning process through repeated nocturnal interventions. A parent may feel unnecessary and hurt as the child learns to differentiate and autonomy by the time they sleep. A parent may also, based on their own experiences, experience that the child is experiencing the same anxiety as he or she. If parents are not prone to rhythm and self-regulation, the baby may inherit susceptibility to sleep disorders and be exposed to it through their parents. In a state of stress and fatigue, a parent’s own ability to regulate emotions and manage impulses may be put to the test. A parent who has never received help in regulating their emotions has a harder time helping their child with sleep disorders.
The sleep of many babies begins to stabilize at the age of six months, when the circadian rhythm begins to stabilize and night feeds are no longer needed. However, 17% -46% of families have bedtime problems and nocturnal awakenings. If left unaddressed, problems can continue as the child grows. In general, if a baby has enough to do during the day, go outdoors, and be with parents, he or she usually does not have constant difficulty falling asleep. However, many infants have occasional difficulty falling asleep and there are many reasons for this. A child will not easily fall asleep if he is too tired or anxious. If a child gets angry when he is put to bed, the anger subsides more slowly in the evening than during the day. An outburst of tantrum may delay the onset of sleep by up to 1-2 hours. When placing in bed, avoid commanding and forcing the child and going to bed too hastily. If the child is afraid, he should not be left alone in a dark room. It would be a good idea to avoid extra noise at the time the child goes to bed.
How are baby’s sleep problems treated?
For babies six months of age and older, several models of behavioral care have been recommended and proven to be effective, producing reliable and effective changes to sleep problems. There are different types of sleep schools and before starting a sleep school it is good to know the quality of a child’s sleep disorder. f there is an abnormality in the circadian rhythm, sleep school is suitable for treatment. When starting a sleep school, it should be ensured that the awakenings are not due to illness. Sleep school is not suitable as a method of treatment if sleep difficulties are due to irregular and unfavorable family lifestyles. The activity of fathers in the treatment of sleep disorders has increased and it appears from studies that it has been found to enhance and accelerate the achievement of the desired change. In order to start a sleep school, parents must be positive about starting a sleep school. The life situation of the family should be calm and the environmental factors that interfere with sleep should be minimized before starting sleep school. The clinic or doctor should be contacted if a child who has previously been sleeping well begins to wake up frequently and is in pain, or if the child is snoring constantly and is tired during the day. Sleep can also be rhythmized in a sleep school clinic if the situation is awkward for the family.
The importance of routines for a child’s sleep
For babies and young children, routines are important. They perceive their world and structure and organize their day through routines. Routines help the child understand that the agenda always includes going to bed and sleeping at the end. Routines can be developed from the very beginning with the baby.
Usually, the first step in correcting sleep problems is to create certain sleep routines in the evening and set a regular bedtime. It is advisable to create the same recurring pattern for the evenings before the actual sleep schools begins. Evening routines prolong night sleep and even if it is a child with severe sleep disorders, it is good to start with routines, even though they are hardly enough as the only remedy. It is worth preparing for bedtime with quiet and calming actions. It is a good idea to leave the pleasant steps of the routine last so that the child has pleasant memories. For example, if brushing your teeth causes you to cry and fight every night, you shouldn’t leave it last. The key for a child is that the time to go to bed is always the same. Morning awakenings should also be regular. Evening routines should be repeated unhurriedly and predictably. For many, sleep routines include, for example, a bath, evening porridge, a sleep song, or an evening tale. In routines, it is important to be comfortable and nursing.
The routine tells the baby that it is time to go to bed. An hour before bedtime should be calm. Routines should be done in a dim room. You can also write down the routines for yourself, as it can help you create them. Sleep routines should be maintained as often as possible, but sometimes there will be situations where you need to be flexible and then act accordingly. You can then go through the bedtime routines shortened or, if necessary, skip the routines and resume normal routines the next day.
Rhythmicity is inherent in humans and the variation of alertness states gradually becomes a regular circadian rhythm for the child. Through adult activity, the child learns the difference between night and day. The adult takes care of the active interaction with the child during the day, while at night the activity and stimulation are kept to a minimum. The child should have a regular daily rhythm in which eating, play and interaction, outdoor activities and naps alternate.