Childrens Sleeping HabitsAugust 7, 2012 No Comments
As a parent, it’s natural to long for the day your baby starts sleeping through the night, and you get to properly recharge your batteries.
Unfortunately there’s no biological alarm clock in your new baby set to go off at three months, telling him/her to start sleeping eight hours straight.
Every child’s sleep pattern is different and this can be a real sense of stress, especially for new parents who don’t know what’s ‘normal’ and for parents of more than one child who are simply exhausted and want a proper nights rest.
The topic of children’s sleep patterns has been in the news recently following publication of the UK’s biggest child sleep study. The research examined sleep habits for newborns to children aged ten of 10,766 UK families and the release of the results marked the first National Child Sleep Week (6-12 August) run in conjunction with Netmums.
The research found:
- Just 26 per cent of newborns sleep through the night by 12 weeks of age – the time when many parenting experts claim newborns should sleep through by.
- Less than two thirds (63 per cent) of babies go through the night with unbroken sleep by 12 months.
- Between seven and nine months, 56 per cent of tots were sleeping soundly.
- More than three quarters of children sleep through the night by two-years-of-age, but 16 per cent of parents say their older children still ‘wake regularly’ at nighttime.
- One in 50 mums and dads are so desperate for sleep they have hired a sleep specialist – at a cost of up to £1,000 a week!
The sleep study revealed that the favourite bedtime is between 7pm to 7.30pm, with over a third of children getting tucked up in bed at this hour, followed by one in five between 7.30pm to 8pm. One in 33 families don’t put young children to bed until 9.30pm or later and a further three per cent admit they do not have a set bedtime, which leaves their children exhausted.
Why sleep is important for children
For children, the main benefit of sleep is the release of growth hormones that encourage normal growth and body development. There’s increasing evidence to show that children and young adults who don’t get enough sleep can be more at risk of suffering from weight gain, depression, poor performance and lack of concentration, low immunity levels and reduced creative ability.
Establishing a bedtime routine
Children respond well to a routine, so it’s important that you establish a bedtime routine early on. For most families this will be tea, followed by a bath, some quiet time before bed, a story and a good night kiss. Try and have a set bedtime that your child gets used too, making allowances for special occasions and holiday periods.
The sleep poll found that this traditional method of enforcing a bedtime routine is still the most popular way to teach babies to sleep with almost two in five families using routines.
Despite poor sleeping habits, a quarter of all UK children wake before 6.30am everyday, meaning there’s a lot of parents out there who aren’t getting enough sleep either. In fact, half of all families polled said lack of sleep left them exhausted, and one in five said that lack of sleep had a negative impact on their relationships, leading to rows and even break-ups.
Common sleep problems in children
Once settled many children wake in the night. A common problem is thirst. Metabolism rates in children vary and it is possible that mild dehydration can affect their sleep. Get into the habit of leaving a fresh drink of water on your child’s bedside table.
Being too warm or too cold at night is another factor that can cause a sleeping child to wake. Check that you are using the right weight (tog rating) of duvet for the time of year to prevent over or under heating. Also, regularly turn your child’s mattress to prevent it getting lumpy – no one can be expected to sleep in an uncomfortable bed.
In addition the sleep survey revealed that 12 per cent of children sometimes wet the bed, 15 per cent occasionally suffer from night terrors, 5 per cent sometimes sleep walk and 13 per cent are sometimes scared of ‘monsters’ in their room.
Sleep tips for children
- Create the right environment for sleeping – a room that is dark, cool, quiet and safe
- Ensure your child has a supportive mattress and clean bedding
- Establish a regular bedtime routine that your child’s body clock can become accustomed too
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, fizzy drinks and sugary foods before bedtime
- Remove electronic stimulants such as the TV, computer and games from the bedroom
- Turn off mobile phones during the night
- Fresh water should be within easy reach