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SLEEP DIFFICULTIES

This blog is for children /tweens /and teens and also for parents. Because parents need to know these concepts and how to share the knowledge with their kids.

I rarely come across someone who is content with their sleep.

 

Let me say this: if you are not sleepy the next day then maybe you are getting enough sleep.  How about you stop counting the hours of sleep you have. 

It’s simple, if you are tired, then maybe you did not get enough sleep the night before.  

If you hardly slept the night before and you function fine and are not tired, then why try create an issue that may lead to unnecessary worry.

At this point I will announce that this blog is written with the exception of those who are diagnosed with medical sleep issues /disturbances /disorders.  This blog is written for the general parent who may be concerned and not know what to say to their child and what to take more seriously, or less seriously.

So how about we stop worrying about waking up during the night.  We all apparently wake up.  Its normal, its brief too (every hour and a half actually).  So you and your child can now let go of that worry, and accept it as part of the sleep cycle /rhythm.

No doubt however, there are some problems associated with sleep deprivation, and if we share this knowledge with our kids then it may inspire them enough to take measures to not lead themselves into sleep deprivation.

When we don’t get enough sleep for our body and mind, we might not remember important things (eg work for tests or presentations, or meetings with others, or to take something to school).  Creative learning also becomes restricted as they are too tired to engage in new learning.  They may feel tense, annoyed, on edge, frustrated (as oppose to feeling relaxed and content after adequate sleep). 

I’m sure you agree that the body will not recover and repair as fast (most of this happens effectively during sleep).  Sport and activity performance may be affected due to being tired and thus lack the drive and enthusiasm to play.  And, normal response and reaction times may be slower than usual.  

What I like most about such unappealing facts is that it may be enough for our kids to say “no thanks I don’t want to be like any of those statements” and they may find the motivation to improve their own sleep hygiene and play their part for a good nights sleep /rest (or at least what their body needs).  

Note to parents; the way you deliver such important messages to your child will either assist motivate them, or not.  Also be careful not to install anxiety into your child by frightening them with such facts.  Some children are already anxious about sleep. So please treat it delicately.

A word about naps: they are ok if you do not have problems sleeping.  But if you do, then even short naps can make it more difficult to fall asleep.

Exercise is a great day time tip, but I must admit that most sports amongst kids these days are done in the evening, after school.  Regardless its important to be aware of best practice.

I’m sure you have all heard by now about the blue light that turns down melatonin (our sleep hormone) and that devices should be turned off about an hour before bed time.  The studies, and evidence is there, so feel free to do your own research if you are not convinced.

Another good practice is to get up earlier in the morning, get moving, find day light (open blinds, walk outside) and have breakfast.  This is just one way to reset the body clock.

I leave this part up to the comfort and safe feeling of your child.  Its is recommended the room be real dark, quiet and cool.  I know some kids prefer a night light.  I wont argue this one.  I do know however there are light bulbs which are suitable for blocking the light that affects melatonin (beta blockers).

How about some instructions: get in bed, smile, close your eyes, take a nice breath, relax the muscles and lay still.  Wriggle a little if you need to and then find that calm stillness again.  Make it a ritual if you like.  Just an idea.  Different things work for different people.

What an opportunity for worry to get in!!!   So help yourself into sleep by deliberately saying calm, positive, reassuring words, and then watch them turn into calm, positive, reassuring images in your mind.

I want you to know, half our kids do not usually have anything seriously wrong with them.  Sleep difficulty is common.

Whilst you are trying to relax into your method of sleep (eyes closed, calming thoughts, body still), I don’t think its wise to punish yourself for more than 15-20 min because you don’t want to create other associations about being awake which may cause further problems.  How about get up, do so some stretches, tense your muscles, walk to the bathroom (don’t do anything cheeky like check social media accounts, or start reading a new book that you cant put down). Re-set your attitude and interest in trying again, and do exactly that… try again.

Be persistent, leave your frustration behind.  Be okay with what you are experiencing.  Sometimes acceptance of difficulties assists to resolve them in their own time and in their own fashion.

Another thing I have found successful is when the child has their own written sleep plan.  This can be done with a parent or on their own.  Try avoid having to sleep with the child or having the child constantly report to you that they are awake [unless you find a good reason for this]. Remember we want no harm.  Small pieces of progress should be acknowledged.  Sometimes and often there are set backs.  And these are ok too.  Everything offers feedback.  

Good luck and may you sleep as well as you need to without disturbing anyone else.

amanda@positivethinkingclinic.com.au helping kids and families understand sleep