News | Published March 19, 2013

Creating good sleep habits for children

Parents are often frustrated by their child's sleep-related problems - and bring those frustrations when they visit their pediatrician. It's no wonder - poor sleep habits can lead to health, behavioral, social, and educational problems.

"Many behavioral problems we see in children are the result of sleep problems. Once you address sleep, these problems, be it moodiness or depression or even ADHD, may disappear," says Haviva Veler, MD, director of the Weill Cornell Pediatric Sleep Center and a pediatrician at the Komansky Center for Children's Health at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Typical sleep issues - age by age

Infants up to one year old: Main concern is getting the child to sleep through the night on their own. Parents should keep a consistent routine for bedtime, as well as naps, which may include an object that the child relies on to fall asleep - like a blanket, toy, or soothing music.

Toddlers (ages 1-3 years): During these sometimes-defiant years, one problem is a child's refusal to go to sleep, delaying bedtime, or not wanting to sleep in their own bed. Again, keeping a routine may alleviate some of these issues. Another common problem are night terrors or nightmares - which are normal but might be reduced if parents can identify triggers such as scary stories or movies.

Preschoolers (ages 4-6): Sleep apnea - or obstruction of the upper airway - is common at this age group. While apnea in adults usually is associated with obesity, apnea in children is more common in smaller children who have large tonsils or adenoids. Symptoms of apnea in children include difficulty breathing while sleeping, frequently waking up during the night, hyperactivity, learning problems and bedwetting.

School-aged children and adolescents (ages 7-17): This age group tends to deal with sleep deprivation - often caused by increased school work, social or extracurricular activities, and distractions such as computers and cell phones. Without enough quality sleep, children can have attention, memory, cognitive function and school performance issues.

According to Dr. Veler, "Parents should be promote good sleep patterns in their children and address any concerns with a pediatrician or sleep specialist to not only alleviate any behavioral problems but also set their child on the road to educational success and physical health."

Mount Nittany Health's Sleep Management Program can work with you and your child to evaluate and treat sleep-related issues and counsel you on the best sleep habits for your entire family. For more information about the Sleep Management Program, visit their website or call 814.231.7277.