Sleep Issues and Children

Does Music Help Children Sleep Better During Naptime?

Reasons Music Helps

Child experts agree that music can help babies and young children sleep. Dr. Trevor Holly Cates of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians says that music can help a child relax and prepare for sleep. Renowned pediatrician Dr. Sears says that music can help children stay asleep longer. Lullabies have helped soothe children back to sleep for centuries.

Familiarity

Children sleep better when they are familiar with the music. Dr. Sears says that sounds of waterfalls, oceans or medleys of lullabies can help remind babies of the sounds children heard while in the womb. Lisa Huisman Koops, an associate professor of music education at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University, says that infants recognize music that they heard while in utero. She also says that it is important for children to grow up in a home where the family enjoys music and associates different kinds of music for different aspects of the day, such as lively music during the day and relaxing music during sleep times.

Routine

Listening to music can help a child more when it is built into his routine. Maureen Healy, an author and specialist in how to help highly sensitive children, in an article for Psychology Today, says that having a routine helps your child get into a relaxed state of mind. The Mayo Clinic recommends playing the same music when you want your child to sleep. This technique can help train your child to sleep when he hears this music. Add music to other parts of a child's routine, such as reading a book or taking a bath.

Types of Music

Different kinds of music may have different effects on children's sleep patterns. Dr. Sears recommends using white noise, such as a tape recording of a ticking clock, running water, a fan or air conditioner to calm your child during his naps. Pinky McKay, an author and international board certified lactation consultant says that white noise or music that incorporates the rhythm of the maternal heartbeat can have soothing effects on the child. Healy recommends playing calming music, like Tibetan Singing Bowl, which she says have been proven to calm a child's central nervous system.

Considerations

Music may not help all children sleep. Different children may react differently to music when it is used as part of their nap time routine. Koops warns that music may become a "sleep crutch" for some children and that it may be disruptive when it goes off. Dr. Sears recommends using a continuous-play tape to deal with this problem.

How to Get Teenagers Up in the Morning

Talk to your child about her responsibility to get herself going in the morning, recommends Megan Devine, parental support line adviser with Empowering Parents. By removing yourself from the equation and insisting that your teenager accept responsibility for getting up without your help, you will train her to be self-sufficient in this area.

Provide your teenager with an alarm clock that has a suitable alarm that will rouse her from slumber. Encourage her to place her alarm clock in a spot in her room that will prevent her from hitting the snooze button by simply reaching out from bed. A spot across the room where she needs to get out of bed to silence the alarm would be effective.

Encourage your child to pay attention to the time she goes to sleep at night to make it easier for her to get up the next morning. While most teens probably won’t appreciate having a “bedtime” set for them, you can help her pay attention to sleep times and the amount of sleep she gets so she’s rested and ready to get up in the morning.

Open the blinds or curtains or raise the shade in the morning to allow natural light into the room.

Allow natural consequences to occur from oversleeping. A natural consequence is an outcome that happens without any intervention or action by you. Natural consequences can be an effective way to teach responsibility. An example of a natural consequence might be missing the school bus and being late for school. Whether you drive your child to school in this situation depends on your specific situation and whether your child can get herself to school apart from the bus and assistance from you, notes Devine. Even if you have to drive your teen to school, there are other natural consequences, such as suffering school discipline because of tardiness or having to make up missed schoolwork.

The Effects of School Start Times on Teens

Teen Sleep Patterns

Teenagers need about 9 1/4 hours of sleep every night, according to the NSF. Yet once school starts, most teens lose two hours of sleep each school night, according to a document compiled by South Orangetown Central School District (SOCSD) in New York, entitled "The Impact of School Start Times on Adolescent Health and Academic Performance." Although teens can be their own worst enemies -- cramming jobs, sports, homework and social activities into their schedules, drinking caffeine and staying up late to email or play online games -- even when they try, most teens can’t fall asleep before 10 p.m. or later. In addition, the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin is still high when most teens arrive at school.

Sleep Deprivation

Early school start times result in teens who are still sleepy, because they have not had enough sleep to feel rested. Sleep-deprived teens cannot learn as well and cannot remember what they’ve learned, according to SOCSD. In addition to impaired learning capacity, sleep-deprived teens are more susceptible to depression, anxiety and fatigue, have decreased athletic and motor skills and may be at higher risk for alcohol and drug use. Lack of sleep also affects teens’ secondary brain development.

Later Start Times

Later school start times can have an effect on teens’ academic performance, behavior and safety, according to the NSF. Beginning in 1996, high schools in Edina and Minneapolis, Minnesota changed school start times to 8:30 a.m. and 8:40 a.m. respectively. Three years later, both schools showed improved attendance, less tardiness and increases in continuous enrollment. Students reported they got an average of one more hour of sleep and were more likely to be able to do their homework in class because they were more alert. Grades showed a slight improvement, student behavior improved in suburban schools and there were fewer disciplinary referrals. An experiment in Massachusetts in 2004 showed similar results.

Teen Driving Accidents

School start times can affect automobile accident rates among teen drivers, according to a June 2010 article in "U.S. News Health." Studies in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, Virginia, showed that in Virginia Beach, where high schools start at 7:20 a.m., there were 65.4 car crashes per 1,000 teen drivers. In Chesapeake, school starts at 8:40. Chesapeake’s crash rate was 40 percent lower than the rate in Virginia Beach. Another study reported in the December 2008 "Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine" found teen driver crash rates dropped more than 16 percent when high schools started one hour later.

Is Rocking Toddlers to Sleep Bad?

Sleep Associations

A sleep association is simply the standard routine or pattern involved with going to sleep, according to Johnson. Just as an adult probably has a bathroom routine and a standard way of turning out the light and climbing into bed, a child needs this, too. Whatever sleep associations you have instituted with your toddler will be the ones he insists on having to go to sleep as he gets older.

Dependency on Rocking

If you always help your child fall asleep with rocking, you may become stuck as your toddler continues to require this crutch to fall asleep, warns pediatrician and author William Sears, with the Ask Dr. Sears website. You may also receive numerous wake-up calls throughout the night when your little one wakes up and cannot put herself back to sleep independently, advises psychologist Laura Markham, with the Aha! Parenting website. Your child will open her eyes in bed and immediately feel that she needs you to rock her to get back to sleep because she does not know any other way of going to sleep.

Independent Sleep Habits

The ability for your toddler to fall asleep independently may have a variety of benefits. Your bedtime routine could become easier, shorter and less stressful for you after you train your toddler to fall asleep by himself in his bed. In addition, any times that your toddler wakes overnight, he should be able to successfully go back to sleep without your help.

Sleep Training

To break the rocking-to-sleep habit, institute a different bedtime routine, suggests pediatrician Alan Greene, with the Dr.Greene.com website. You might include a bath, a snack, brushing teeth, a few story books and then snuggling in bed for a short time. Make the new routine pleasant and consistent. Your toddler may object at first, but with firm consistency, she should accept it within a few nights.

How to Help Infants Sleep Through the Night

Bedtime Routine

Play with your baby during the day to encourage better sleep at night.

Keep the bedtime atmosphere calm and peaceful. Dim the lights. Use a nightlight, if needed.

Establish a calm, consistent bedtime routine. After bathing, sing or read quietly to her in her bedroom.

Put her in her crib when she is drowsy but still awake to encourage her to fall asleep on her own.

Pat her gently and speak reassuringly if she fusses or cries when you put in her crib. Leave the room.

Wait a few minutes before going to check on her if she stirs or fusses in the night to allow her the time to soothe herself back to sleep. Go and check on her if she continues to cry. Keep the lights dim and speak softly to teach her that it is still bedtime, not playtime.

Gradual Withdrawal

Put her in the crib while she is drowsy but still awake.

Sit in a chair near the crib, giving her occasional pats or touches of reassurance. Pick her up to reassure her if she cries uncontrollably. Put her back in the crib to go to sleep on her own.

Stay by the crib until she falls asleep.

Move the chair away from the crib gradually every three nights until you are out of her sight but still in the room. After two to three weeks, put her down and leave the room.

Ferber Method

Put your infant in his crib while he is awake following the established bedtime routine. Leave the room.

Go back into the room to check on him after one to five minutes if he cries. Reassure him but do not pick him up. Stay for two to three minutes and leave again.

Increase the length of time before going in to check on him if crying continues. First wait for three minutes, then five minutes, then 10 minutes each time after that. Each succeeding night continue to increase the time before you return to check on him until you are waiting up to 12 minutes before returning.

Tip

Be consistent with any method you choose. Plan to spend at least three weeks when changing your baby's sleep routine.

Warning

The Ferber Method is recommended for infants who are at least 5 or 6 months of age.

Scents to Help Toddlers Sleep

Chamomile

People often drink chamomile tea before bed to help them relax and prepare for sleep. This carminative herb is also often used to help soothe colicky infants at bedtime. A warm cup of unsweetened chamomile tea before bed can help your child drift off, but, if your toddler doesn’t take to the distinct taste, make your own herbal sachet with dried chamomile flowers to place inside your toddler’s pillowcase. Another idea is to place a dish filled with the flowers out of reach in his bedroom to promote sleep naturally through the unique, calming scent of chamomile.

Lavender

Lavender is a naturally calming scent with gentle sedative properties that can help your little one relax and sleep at the end of the day. Use a lavender-scented soap at bath time to promote sleepiness in your toddler, or give him a relaxing body massage before bed using a lavender-scented baby lotion. The warm bath water and rhythmic pressure strokes from your hands also promote sleep by relaxing your child’s muscles.

Lemon Balm and Valerian

According to the University of Michigan Health System, a combination of lemon balm and valerian herbs is effective in curing insomnia and improving sleep. Mix a few drops of lemon balm and valerian essential oils in an oil diffuser to keep in your child’s room at night on a high shelf or other out-of-reach place. Or, add a few drops of the oil to bath water to soothe, calm, and relax your toddler before bedtime and help him fall asleep. Get approval from your child’s pediatrician first to avoid an allergic reaction or other possible side effect.

Other Scents

Unique scents may be of special comfort to your toddler, such as the smell of his freshly laundered, favorite blanket or the aroma of your shampoo, which might remind him of snuggling with you. Avoid overpowering scents or energizing, invigorating scents, such as ginger or peppermint, at bedtime.

Can Children Absorb Information While Sleeping?

Activating Prior Learning

Children can learn implicitly through sleep -- that is, they can unconsciously absorb information without intent or awareness. All of the information that your child takes in throughout the day -- facts learned in school, details about the environment, and social interactions with others, for example -- are activated and processed into explicit memory as your child sleeps. Sleeping right after learning helps your child’s brain process information more efficiently, according to a 2007 study published in the "Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience." In the study, participants who learned a new computer-based task were able to complete the task better and faster after a night of sleep, which suggests, according to the study researchers, that sleep enhances the learning process even after explicit learning has ended.

Learning New Information

In addition to processing prior information, children can also acquire new information while asleep that has the potential to help them learn more. The sounds of soft music or a language being spoken, for example, can make their way into little ears and minds, even during the deepest of sleep. Sound cues can, according to Northwestern University, enhance learning during waking hours. A 2009 Northwestern sleep study showed that people who were played sound cues during sleep were better able to recall associated information during waking hours. The results of this study suggest that it might be possible for students to perform better on tests or learn a new language faster and easier if daytime studying is accompanied by related sound cues played for the child as he sleeps through the night.

Sleep and Skill-building

In addition to absorbing prior information and acquiring new knowledge, researchers at Northwestern University also suggest that children can potentially learn new skills while they are asleep. While research is ongoing in this exciting discovery, preliminary results from a Northwestern University study indicate that external stimulation during sleep can reactivate memories and store them more efficiently, resulting in skill building.

Sleeping for Smarts

If you aren’t exactly able to whisper a foreign language or other sound cues into your child’s ear at night, fear not -- sleep and intelligence are also associated in more general ways. According to the Good Therapy website, adequate sleep is essential to children’s academic performance, cognitive functioning, behavior, intelligence, mood, memory and attention. Ensuring that your child gets a full night’s sleep regularly can naturally boost her intelligence and performance.

How to Get Two Small Children to Sleep in the Same Room

Create a physical barrier between the two children. Try a floor-to-ceiling curtain on a track in the middle of the room, suggests Project Nursery, or move furniture around so that the two kids can't see each other. Likewise, make sure the bedroom is dark enough to facilitate good sleeping. Out of sight, out of mind.

Create a solid bedtime routine for both kids. When kids know what to expect at night time, they're more likely to fall asleep easier and get better sleep, advises Megan Faure, author of "The BabySense Secret," in an article in "Parents." Decide what time bedtime is going to be, and then start getting ready at the same time every night. Read books, give a bath, sing a lullaby, or whatever you prefer as your winding-down activities. When that routine is finished, your kids will know it's time to go to sleep -- and they may be less likely to goof around.

Try a staggered schedule. If one of the kids is more disruptive than the other, start her bedtime routine first to get her to sleep before the other one goes down -- or start the quieter one's bedtime routine in your bedroom and move her to her own bed when you go to bed.

Create a reward system for a good sleeping routine. Even toddlers can understand a sticker chart that tracks their good nights and results in a reward after a certain number of times. Consider a trip to the swim center, a fun breakfast, a new book or some other incentive to reward kids when they make it through the night without being disruptive, advises Parenting.org.

Tip

Avoid rushing in every time one of the kids gets disruptive or calls for you. Giving them that attention when they're supposed to be sleeping only exacerbates the problem. If one child gets up, be firm and take her right back to bed. Be patient -- breaking those bad habits may take some time for both you and your kids.

Remedies to Help a Baby Sleep

Comfort

Though methods of training baby to fall asleep on her own are popular, many children simply need the comfort of a parent in order to fall asleep. You may need to nurse her, hold her, rock her, or simply lie down next to her. This can be time-consuming on your part, so think of ways you can deal with the frustration. For example, you might be able to nurse her to sleep while watching your favorite TV show, or think of nap times as times for your rest as well. She won't be in this stage forever.

Movement

Some babies need a bit of movement to lull them to sleep. A vibrating or rocking chair is an easy way to put the baby to sleep, if this is something he enjoys. If not, you could try wearing baby in a carrier, putting him in the stroller for a walk or going for a drive. Cribs aren't the only place a baby can sleep, according to AskDrSears. If your child sleeps better in a rocker, especially for daytime naps, you can let him sleep there.

Environment

Some babies can sleep just about anywhere when they're tired, but others require a very calm environment. Consider getting black-out curtains for baby's room to make it dark during the daytime. A white noise machine, or a CD that plays nature sounds, can help drown out the noises of activity in the home. In the winter, a cold bed can wake a sleeping baby, so if you let her fall asleep in your arms, warm the crib sheets with a blanket or heating pad before you place her in the bed, taking care to remove it before putting her there.

Routine

Though it seems counter-intuitive, a baby can actually have a hard time falling asleep if he's too tired. Keeping a consistent routine when it comes to naps and bedtimes will help your baby sleep well. Before bedtime, plan activities that will calm your child down, such as giving him a bath, snuggling and singing songs or giving him a gentle massage.

Do Children Who Don't Take Naps Sleep Longer at Night?

No More Naps

Children who stop napping often do sleep a bit longer at night -- about an hour longer -- because they are usually tired earlier, resulting in a earlier bedtime. This can vary depending on sleep habits, however. If your child was only napping for a short period of time -- say, a quick 30-minute nap -- and was already sleeping 11 hours per night, she may not sleep longer after dropping the nap.

Ages & Stages

Infants nap around the clock, eventually settling down to take two two-hour naps per day: one in the morning and one in the afternoon. By the time a child enters his toddler years, however, one of those naps -- usually the morning one -- gets dropped. Toddlers up to the age of 3 usually need between 10 and 13 hours of sleep, according to KidsHealth.org, so they often take an early afternoon nap of about two hours, and then sleep for about 10 hours at night. Young children usually drop this afternoon nap between the ages of 3 and 4 -- almost always by the time they turn 5 -- and then sleep between 10 and 12 hours at night.

School Matters

Although most children stop napping by 4 years of age, some experts believe this may be too soon, according to "Parents" magazine. One factor may be school: some preschools and most kindergartens don't include a nap time, and even if they do, children often have a harder time falling asleep when they aren't at home in their own bed. Children who are ready to give up naps aren't fussy in the afternoon and have no problem falling asleep at night or getting up in the morning.

A Good Night's Sleep

It's important for all children to get a good night's sleep, but even more so for a child who has recently given up her daily naps. Help her sleep well by establishing a consistent bedtime routine that includes activities designed to get her to wind down and relax. These may include a warm bath, a quiet story and a lullaby or two. Soft lighting also helps. Resist putting a television in your child's room or letting her have any screen time -- including on a computer -- before bed.

How to Get a Baby to Sleep at Night Without Crying

Drowsy Sleep Techniques

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, putting your baby to sleep in her crib while she's drowsy, but not sleepy, can help her learn to fall asleep on her own. To do this, you need to recognize the signs your baby is getting sleepy, which can range from eye rubbing to mild fussing. Some babies are perfectly content to lay in the crib on their own while you walk away. Others might need a bit more encouragement. You can pull a chair up next to your baby's bed, singing her a song and perhaps rubbing her tummy until she falls asleep.

Parenting to Sleep

Many babies are not able to sleep on their own and need help from their parents to fall asleep. Techniques to "parent your child to sleep" include rocking or nursing him until he falls asleep. If you're going to do this, it's important to wait until your child has entered a deep sleep stage before trying to place him in his bed. This typically takes about 20 minutes, according to AskDrSears.com.

A Bedtime Ritual

Developing a standard bedtime ritual can help your baby's body learn when it's time to sleep. For example, you might give her a bath, massage her body for a few minutes, nurse her to fill up her little belly, then place her in her crib and sing a song until she sleeps. As your baby gets older, you might include reading a story. It's important to develop a routine surrounding nap time as well, according to AskDrSears.com.

Sharing a Room

Consider sharing a room with your child during the first year, whether he's in a crib or co-sleeper. Young babies don't yet have the ability to go through the night without a feeding, so you should expect him to wake up. If he's in the same room with you, it's easier to hear him wake up before his needs reach the stage when he'll start crying. If you are calm, quiet and matter-of-fact about this nighttime feeding, he'll go right back to sleep.

The Best Position to Sleep in When You're Pregnant

First Trimester: Anything Goes

The best sleeping position during the first trimester is whichever one you find most comfortable. Sleeping flat on your back is not recommended during the second and third trimesters, so if this is your preferred sleeping position, make the most of it while you can. The National Sleep Foundation advises sleeping on your left side during the first trimester to increase blood flow to your the placenta; your growing baby needs those nutrients.

Second Trimester: Learn SOS

When you reach the second trimester, it's time to adopt the "SOS" (sleep on side) position. If you're used to sleeping on your back, this may take a bit of getting used to. Sleeping flat on your back is not advisable now, because in this position your growing uterus puts pressure on your vena cava (the main vein directing blood flow from your lower body to your heart) and can lead to problems with breathing, digestion, circulation and blood pressure. Try to sleep on your left side, with your legs and knees bent, advises KidsHealth.org. According to sleep expert Donna Arand of BabyCenter.com, this position helps your kidneys rid your body of toxins and fluid, which may help reduce swelling in your ankles, hands and feet.

Third Trimester: Comfort Is Key

As your due date approaches, you may find it increasingly difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position. Adopt the "SOS" position, but try placing a pillow between your knees to reduce the pressure on them. A special U-shaped pregnancy pillow is designed to fit neatly between your legs. If nighttime heartburn or shortness of breath is an issue, try sleeping with your head or upper body elevated on pillows.

Sleep Survival Tips

Position may not be your only concern when it comes to pregnancy sleeping habits. You may find that cramping, restless leg syndrome and frequent trips to the bathroom disturb your sleep. You can't do much about urination, but avoiding carbonated sodas and drinks may reduce leg cramps, says the National Sleep Foundation. Restless leg syndrome may be linked to an iron deficiency, so eat lots of iron-rich foods, such as red meat and leafy green vegetables, and speak to your doctor about an iron supplement. If you're really struggling to sleep, get out of bed and take a warm bath or read a book.

How to Get a 3-Week-Old to Sleep Better

Recognize the signs that he is tired. Babies can get fussy and fight sleep if they get too tired. Typical signs that a baby is tired including rubbing his eyes, excessive fussiness, yawning and dark circles under his eyes. He might also try to bury his face in your chest or in a blanket. Don't try to keep him up later than necessary in hopes that he will sleep longer at night. Put him to sleep when he first starts showing signs that he is ready for some rest.

Establish a sleep association. Pediatrician Dr. William Sears states that children expect to go to sleep the way that they were initially put to bed, whether your method is rocking, nursing or snuggling. Put your infant to sleep a number of different ways to encourage him to adjust to a variety of sleep associations. Some parents choose to allow their babies to self-soothe, which allows them to put themselves back to sleep, but Sears notes that it can cause problems with trust and make parents less sensitive to their child's cries. The primary drawback of helping your baby fall asleep is that he expects it and can lead to less sleep for you.

Teach your baby the difference between day and night. Change him into an outfit for the day, open blinds and windows to allow light to come in, and stay active and play during the day. Allow him to hear noises such as the vacuum cleaner or washing machine to stay stimulated. At night, dim or turn off the lights and create a calm and soothing environment. Dress him in pajamas to signal that it is night time, and don't talk to him as much. Keep feedings quiet and relaxed so that he learns to distinguish between day and night.

Warning

The AAP advises that parents put babies to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Keep bumpers, pillows and blankets or anything else that can interfere with your baby's breathing and cause suffocation out of the crib or bassinet.

How to Get a Tired Baby to Sleep

Slow down your playtime together. This helps your baby wind down, but also limits stimulation so he doesn't get so excited that he can't fall asleep. Instead of playing with the toy that lights up and sings songs, look at a board book or let your baby explore a stuffed animal.

Create a routine. Newborns don't always sleep on a schedule, but starting a routine within the first few months can help your baby recognize when it's time to sleep. No set routine works for everyone, so try a few tactics to see what works best for your baby. For example, give your baby a warm bath, apply lotion and gently massage your baby's skin with it, nurse him or give him a bottle, then lay him in his bed and sing a song or read a book. Over time, he'll begin to expect bedtime at the end of the routine.

Put your baby to bed when he's drowsy, but not asleep. This helps him learn to go to sleep on his own. Rock your little one, but as soon as he starts to nod off, lay him down in his crib and let him finish the job by himself.

Turn on a white noise machine or fan in your baby's bedroom. These devices put out a consistent sound that can help soothe your baby so he can fall sleep. They also block out noise in the rest of the house and outside the windows. Turn it up just loud enough to keep noise at bay, but not so loud that it will interfere with his sleep.

Don't rush into your baby's bedroom every time you hear him move or fuss. This only serves to wake him up, which means you'll have to start the whole process again. Instead, let him be for several minutes. If he's still upset, go in and soothe him, but leave the lights off and don't pick him up or talk to him.

How to Prevent Sleep Deprivation in Babies

Track your baby’s awake time so you know when the time approaches that she’ll need to sleep, advises Angela Braden, wellness and lifestyle author, with the Baby Sleep Site. A newborn may only have about 40 minutes of awake time between sleeps. For every month of life, a baby may add between 20 and 40 minutes of awake time. By 6 to 8 months of age, a baby may be able to stay awake 2 to 2.5 hours between sleep.

Watch your baby for signs of tiredness so you can put him to bed before he becomes drowsy, advises the Oregon State University Family Care Connection. A baby may rub his eyes, refuse to establish eye contact, fuss and yawn.

Prepare your baby for sleep when you determine she needs it. Change her diaper, put her in comfortable clothing and place her in her crib to enable her to go to sleep.

Establish an evening routine that encourages an early bedtime for your baby. By keeping activity levels low and maintaining a calm environment, a baby should feel more ready for sleep. Approximately one hour before you want to place your child in bed, begin a routine that your child will learn and recognize as a sign that bedtime is coming. Your routine may include a bath, a final feed and a short snuggle before tucking your baby into his crib.

Maintain consistency every day to ensure your baby gets the sleep she needs, advises professor of psychology Jodi Mindell, with the National Sleep Foundation. By monitoring how your baby acts and looks, you can avoid overtiredness and ensure that your baby naps on schedule.

Tip

Avoid allowing your baby to skip a nap, even when distractions or disruptions make it difficult to maintain a nap schedule, warns WebMD. The combination of sleep deprivation and over stimulation can make the baby extremely irritable. An overtired baby may not sleep well during the night either.

What to Do When Your Grade School Child Gets Up in the Middle of the Night?

Understand Normal Sleep Cycles

Before you decide to take any steps to resolve sleep issues with your child, understand normal sleep cycles -- perhaps your child’s night waking is not abnormal or unusual. Everyone goes through specific sleep cycles during sleep that involve both lighter and deeper slumber, according to psychologist Gwen Dewar, with the Parenting Science website. When your child goes through a lighter sleep cycle, he might just become more restless in bed or he might actually wake up in response to noise or disturbance. If he wakes, he might have trouble going back to sleep.

Physical Causes

Rule out physical causes to night waking to see if your child has physical symptoms that are causing sleep disturbances. Possible issues include gastroesophageal reflux and sleep apnea, states Dewar. It’s also possible that your child has undiagnosed food allergies that can create digestive issues. Even the onset of a cold or infection might make it difficult to rest.

Possible Causes

Some external issues in your family could contribute to night waking, states the University of Michigan Health System. If members of your family are experiencing stress, such as financial or marital difficulties, job loss or illness of a family member, the overall stress level of the family could affect your youngster’s sleep. It’s also possible that depression in a mother could have a direct correlation to sleep disturbances in a child.

Common Issues

When your child wakes, a number of issues could be causing her eyes to pop open, according to the Associated Counselors & Therapists website. She may be experiencing nightmares or night terrors, which rouse her and disturb her sleep. If your youngster experiences bedwetting, this common problem usually disrupts sleep. Sleepwalking and sleep talking could occur during deep sleep cycles -- your youngster is probably unresponsive during these episodes.

How to Help

Sleep disturbances demand a concerted effort to connect with your child during waking hours, advises pediatrician Meg Meeker. If your child’s sleep problems stem from worry or anxiety, try to connect and learn what’s bothering him. A few careful questions should help him open up and share worries with you. Once you know the situation, provide support and guidance to help him feel better. If you feel unable to resolve your child’s anxiety, seek professional assistance.

Does Sleep Apnea in Children Cause Behavioral Changes?

Behavioral Changes

Some children may experience behavioral changes because of sleep apnea while others may not experience any at all. Irritability and sleepiness are common behavioral changes, along with hyperactivity and declining school performance, says Boston Children's Hospital. Long-term behavioral and emotional consequences may include the development of mood disorders or learning disabilities. Children suffering from sleep apnea may also show a shortened attention span and an inability to focus, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. They may frequently fall asleep during class or recess.

Other Changes

Parents who suspect their child may have sleep apnea may be thrown off if the child demonstrates hyperactive behavior. Other telltale signs of sleep apnea in children may include occasionally wetting the bed, loud snoring, morning headaches, dry mouth in the mornings and waking up during the night gasping for breath, according to Boston Children's Hospital. If your child frequently complains of these symptoms, it may be time to intervene. Your child's pediatrician may evaluate her before referring you to a pediatrician who specializes in sleep disorders.

Handling Behavioral Changes

It can be difficult to handle your child's irritability or to tolerate his hyperactivity. Your pediatrician can give you pointers on how to handle and manage these behavioral changes as you seek treatment for your child's sleep apnea. It may turn out that your child's behavior is typical for his age and not related to sleep apnea at all. In that case, he may outgrow some behaviors with time. Consistency is most important, and you should not let your child get away with something at home that you would discipline him for in public, suggests the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Additional Help

Most behavioral changes caused by sleep apnea gradually fade when the condition is properly treated. Weight loss may relieve sleep apnea symptoms in overweight children, while others may require surgical removal of the tonsils or the use of a device called a CPAP machine to support your child's airways, according to Boston Children's Hospital. Your child's doctor can help you figure out the best course of treatment for sleep apnea.