• Deirdre Brandner

5 Common Sleep Questions I hear from parents, as a Child Psychologist

Is it normal that I have to wake my eight-year-old up for school?

It could be normal, but eight-year-olds usually wake up by themselves. This might be a sign that your child has a sleep problem. Check your child’s sleep habits, particularly whether he’s getting enough sleep for a school-age child. A review with your GP or Psychologist or Sleep Paediatrician can help with ideas.

My child snores and gasps at night. Should I be worried?

Snoring can be caused by a cold or a blocked nose. If it happens most nights, even when your child is well, it could be a sign of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). In OSA, blockages to the upper airway stop your child from breathing during sleep. If your child snores, stops breathing during sleep, works hard to breathe, breathes through her mouth, tosses and turns at night, sweats a lot overnight, is tired and can’t concentrate during the day. If you feel this is an ongoing issues then a paediatric review may be useful. Your child wont be harmed and will not stop breathing, their brain wont let this happen.

My three-year-old twitches as she falls asleep. Is this normal?

Yes. These twitches are probably ‘sleep starts’ – quick jerks of the arms and legs that happen as your child falls asleep. Up to 70% of children and grown-ups have sleep starts. Tiredness, stress or lack of sleep might make them worse, check on her sleep habits.

How can I move my child’s bedtime to an earlier time?

To help your child fall asleep earlier, you can gradually start the bedtime routine 15 minutes earlier every few days. Most children will fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed. If your child is lying awake in bed for more than 20-30 minutes after lights out, you might need to keep bedtime at the same time for a couple of weeks before making it earlier again.

Try to get your child up at about the same time each morning, including on weekends. A regular morning wake time can help with keeping a regular bedtime.

When should a child stop napping? How long should a nap be?

Around 25% of children stop napping by three years. Another 50% stop at 3-4 years. Most children have stopped napping by five years if they’re getting enough sleep at night. Naps can range from 30 minutes to around two hours.

If you’re having bedtime struggles, try letting your child have a shorter nap earlier in the day – for example, a nap after lunch. If your child won’t have a daytime nap when you feel he needs one, try to give him some quiet time resting in his room or reading a book.

What does it mean if my child wakes up grumpy?

If your child is grumpy when she wakes up, it might mean she isn’t getting enough sleep or that she isn’t getting enough deep sleep. If you’re concerned your child’s grumpiness might be caused by a sleep problem or a sleep disorder. Getting better sleep routines in place will help with this.

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