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Health > Kids > Sleep problems

Sleep problems

Lack of sleep is one of the main reasons parents seek help from health visitors and doctors in the early years. Here we look at the most common sleep problems and how to resolve them so you can get a good night's sleep.

Common sleep problems

Here are tips on coping with some of the most common sleeping problems children have.

Difficulty settling at night:

Create a simple and familiar routine for bedtime. For example: feed, bath, bed.

Allow toddlers time to settle. If they make a fuss, don't go back in immediately, but don't leave them for so long that they get very distressed.

Keep things quiet, this helps toddlers to settle and teaches them that night is different from day.

Alternatively, keep natural house noises going. Some children are happier if they can hear household noises and know you're nearby.

Make sure your child winds down before bed. This will make the transition from lively toddler to sleeping child easier.

If your toddler keeps getting up after you've put him to bed, you need to be firm and take him back again. It may take time, but eventually he'll get the message.

Waking too early:

Use thick blinds or curtains to make children's rooms darker so the morning light doesn't wake them.

Provide safe toys for him to play with in the mornings, so he can play quietly until he hears that the rest of the family is awake.

If your child's a natural early riser, you may just have to be patient. Usually, once children start nursery or school, they tend to sleep in for longer.

Waking in the night:

Be realistic and remember that everyone's sleep needs and patterns vary. Some people need eight hours or more, others can manage on five or six. This creates a different picture of what 'sleeping through' means, even in one family.

Many toddlers continue to wake at night for feeds. If you'd like to stop this, cut down night feeds by gradually replacing milk with water.

If you've always rocked, stroked or sung your child to sleep when he first goes to bed, he may find it difficult to get back to sleep on his own if he wakes in the night. When you go in to comfort him, keep the lights low and use a soft voice. Don't encourage play. You'll probably need to do this several times.

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