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Sweet Dreams and Sleep Well
Todays children spend many sleepless nights worrying about studies and other daily challenges. Find out ways to help your child combat with insomnia.
Wake up sleepyhead! Time for school! For most kids, these are not welcome words. For some, theyre almost impossible to obey.

According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, 32 percent of pre-schoolers and 27 percent of school-aged children dont get enough sleep. Yet studies consistently show that sleep-deprived children do poorly in school.

The problem can be as simple as too much stimulation or food before bedtime, an erratic bedtime routine or sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress, say physicians who specialise in sleep difficulties.

Some common disorders

Sleep apnea, where an obstructed windpipe wakes a person momentarily at least once an hour and as many as 100 times per night.

Restless leg syndrome, which can keep sufferers from falling asleep in the first place.

Periodic limb movement syndrome, where involuntary kicking or thrashing wakes a sleeper as many as three times a minute.

Delayed sleep phase syndrome, a sort of internal "clock" maladjustment.

Sleepwalking.

A sleep medicine specialist can treat all of these.

"One survey showed 25 percent of parents who went to see their pediatrician were concerned about a childs sleep," said Dr Damon Salzman, programme director of the Sleep/Wake Disorder Centre of New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Medical College.

Its best to seek the help of a sleep specialist if kids are always sleepy, consistently having difficulty falling asleep or have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, he advised. About 40 percent of kids with attention deficits really are just chronically sleep-deprived.

Dr. John Villa, co-medical director of the Northern New Jersey Centre for Sleep Medicine at Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, said sleep disorders often cause irritability and hyperactivity in children between ages 5 and 8. Treatment reduces or eliminates their daytime symptoms.

Most disorders can be treated with short-term medication, while sleep apnea can be eased by removing tonsils and adenoids to make the back of the throat larger.

But even kids who dont have a diagnosable disorder may need help with falling or staying asleep. Children from 1 to 10 years need about 10 hours of sleep, said Saizman. Those older than 10 should average nine hours.

Its during sleep that the brain organizes memories and processes all the information it has taken in during the day. Thats why infants-who absorbs so much new information in a day- need a lot of sleep, added Saizman.

If you dont suspect a sleep disorder, here are some ways to help kids get the sleep they need:

Select a good mattress.
Have your child lie down on a variety of mattresses and choose one that provides comfort and support. Luis Barragan, president of 1-800 Mattress, said more parents are investing in higher quality mattresses for children to allow for greater movement. "Kids need as much, if not more support, than adults because their bones are growing," Barragan said.

Get the right pillow.
Too soft gives no support to the head and neck, but too firm isnt comfortable. "Observe where your children tend to end up in position, and match the pillow to that position," Barragan said.

Create a "sleepy time" bedroom environment.
Keep your childs room cool but comfortable. Darker is better, but young children may want a nightlight. Place a few drops of an essential oil such as lavender or sweet orange on the pillow. These scents have a calming effect.

Encourage your child to go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day.
"We sleep in on weekends because were tired, meaning were not getting enough rest during the rest of week," said Salzman, "but you cant really play catch-up."

Unwind.
Relaxing activities, such as a hot bath, tend to soothe children, lowering their adrenaline levels and preparing them for sleep. Avoid exciting movies, video games close to bedtime.

Teach your child deep breathing.
"Taking a series of five to ten deep breaths before going to sleep helps relax children and eases tension," said Salzman, "and that makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep."

Sing or play relaxing music.
Lullabies, nature sounds or soft classical music help induce restful sleep.

Develop bedtime routines.
A series of winding-down activities to follow, from brushing teeth to showering to putting on pajamas and hearing a story, helps prepare kids for sleep. Maintain some sort of routine even with teenagers, said Salzman.
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Posted on : 11/11/2005
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