Night Wakings in Children
Night wakings in children are one of the common sleep problems that parents face. By the age of 6 months, most babies are physiologically able to sleep continuously through the night and do not need night feedings. However, between 25% and 50% of babies continue to wake up during the night. These awakenings can occur at any age but are especially common in infancy and toddlerhood. It is important to understand that all children, no matter what age, wake up for a short time during the night. These awakenings occur between two and six times a night. That is, the problem is not the awakening itself, but the difficulty of the child falling back asleep alone by himself. Children who are able to "put themselves back to sleep" wake up for a short time but their parents are not aware of these awakenings. In contrast, there are children who, as soon as they wake up, "signal" to their parents that they woke up by crying or by coming to their room. Many of these children learned to "calm down" or fall asleep only under certain conditions, such as the presence of their parents, food, a bottle, etc. Many parents develop the habit of putting their children to sleep by holding, gently rocking or settling them them in the parent's bed. Over time, children learn to rely on these ways to fall asleep. Although this may not be a problem at bedtime, it can lead to difficulty falling asleep when the child wakes during the night. The children learn how to fall asleep and calm themselves during the night the way they fell asleep while lying down. That is, a child should learn to fall asleep alone so that when he wakes up during the night he will not need the help of his parents. Studies show that children who fall asleep independently of their parents wake up less during the night. There are several things you can do to improve your child's sleep and help him or her fall asleep independently:
- Maintain a regular bedtime
- Make sure that the child sleeps during the day. In small children (under about 4 years old), the more tired the child is, the more sleep will be affected
- Expose the child to daylight during the morning and early afternoon
- Try (not by force) to use a safety/transit object while lying down (soft doll, diaper, blanket)
- Follow a regular bedtime routine (bath, stories)
- Avoid stimulating activities close to bedtime
- Avoid watching TV and playing on the iPhone close to bedtime
- After the age of 6 months, refrain from feeding as part of the sleep routine
- Place the child in bed drowsy but awake (but not asleep)
- If the child cries, you can check on him every certain period of time and maintain a short and relaxing interaction. You can gradually increase the time between check ups. This technique can also be applied during night awakenings.
- Another option is to sit next to the child on a chair during bedtime. When the child falls asleep alone, gradually move away with the chair until you reach the point where the child falls asleep when you are outside the room and the child does not see you.
Regarding these two approaches, be consistent, don't give up, understand that you are doing the right thing and acting in the best interest of the child. Crying signifies protest. Sometimes the child's reactions become more difficult at the initiation of the process, before there is an improvement.