REST UP: Children who don't get enough sleep are more likely to become overweight or obese.
REST UP: Children who don't get enough sleep are more likely to become overweight or obese. iStock

Lack of sleep could be damaging your child's health

DID you think your child would never have a sleep issue again after experiencing problems during their toddler years? Did you think waking up in the wee hours of the morning and nightmares would cease?

Has your primary school child reverted back to having troubles sleeping? Is your teen tired every morning from seemingly a lack of sleep?

These issues are not unusual, in fact up to 40 per cent of children and teens have problems getting to or staying asleep.

The good news is that there are simple lifestyle changes and behaviour strategies you can implement to help your child or teen to improve their sleep.

Get the basics right

As mentioned in previous columns, the bedtime routine and environment are crucial factors in encouraging good sleeping habits.

Maybe you addressed these when they were a toddler, but bad habits have kicked in over time disrupting the routine or changing the environment around your child.

Take a moment to consider whether these could be issues leading the sleep problem.

Are you allowing your child to stay up later? Are they overstimulated from evening television or tablet time? Has their bedroom been significantly changed? Is there too much light? Is it too cold or hot?

It's worth exploring these issues as a simple adjustment might be all that is needed.

Daytime activity influences the evening's sleep

What your child or teen does during the day has a huge influence on their sleeping patterns and behaviour. Healthy eating and physical activity are both key influences.

Your child needs to be eating healthy during the day and should be avoiding over-indulging in caffeine.

Planning the evening meal is also important. If your child doesn't eat enough they will be hungry at bedtime, or if they eat too much they may feel uncomfortable as well and unable to fall asleep.

Physical activity is also important. Your child needs to be using their energy stores and moving around during the day, otherwise their body won't want to go to sleep as it won't be tired enough!

Is anxiety preventing your child from sleeping?

Sometimes your child's issues with sleeping are nothing to do with physical health routine or the home environment, rather something is going on in their life that is worrying them.

If your child is anxious or worried about something, they can find it difficult to go to sleep. While they're lying in bed they don't have toys or games or friends to distract them, it's the perfect time for their worries to preoccupy them.

It's worth asking your child if something is on their mind and to deal with it straight away. This can be as simple as acknowledging it and reassuring them that you will help them in the morning with the problem.

Knowing their parent will help them with their worry in the morning is usually enough for a child to feel better and cease worrying.

If you wish to talk to a medical specialist about this or any other child health issue you can visit a Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service child health centre at Margaret Rose Centre, 312 Bourbong St, Bundaberg; The Village, 34 Torquay Rd, Hervey Bay; or the Bauer-Wiles Community Health Centre, 167 Neptune Street, Maryborough. Alternatively, call your local WBHHS child health team on:

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