“Sleep issues in children: 3 out of 4 families are confronted with this1 .” The biggest changes in sleep occur between birth and 24 months (the age at which the child has learned to walk and is becoming more independent). A large proportion of sleep maturation has been achieved at around the age of 3. It is therefore very important to be aware of and to respect changes in the sleep-wake cycle and to understand the extent to which this rest period is necessary to development and growth.
Sleep Requirements of Children Ages 1 to 3
At the younger age, all types of sleep known in adults are present but their duration, organization and internal structure differ profoundly. They will gradually, over the 3 first years of life, become organized in accordance with a model increasingly close to that of the adult.
Sleep maturation occurs between the ages of 1 to 3 years. The duration of sleep continues to diminish reaching 13-14 hours at 1 year of age and 12-13 hours at three years. The reduction in sleeping time takes place during the day increasing the time spent awake.
The morning nap disappears at around 18 months.
Between 18 months and 3 years, all that remains for the vast majority of children is therefore a single nap right at the beginning of the afternoon. It is usually retained in the first year of preschool and sometimes even in the second year but will gradually disappear between 4 to 6 years of age.
Nocturnal sleep lasts on average 10 hours.
Sleep Issues in Children
From 1 year of age, difficulties in going to bed, and waking in the night then calling out noisily to parents are the most common problems: “22% to 29% of children ages 3-4 have problems sleeping, 15% have difficulty going to sleep and 23% wake up regularly and call for their parents.”
Generally, these difficulties are due to the fact that the child does not know how to go to sleep on their own. More rarely, some sleep issues may be linked to anxiety, caused by life events, such as the birth of a little brother or a little sister...This is also the age at which some parasomnias begin such as confusional arousals or night terrors.
How Can Disturbed Sleep in Children Be Managed Naturally?
Sleep is essential to the well-being of the child, it must therefore be protected, if possible naturally through plant wisdom!
Herbal medicine enables the provision of a gentle, well-tolerated solution using plants such as Chamomile, Poppy, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Linden, and Verbena.
Alone or in combination, in syrup, in capsules or in other forms, they help falling asleep and improve sleep quality without disrupting the different stages of sleep. Doctors and pharmacists are there to advise you.
A few simple measures performed in parallel daily can greatly improve the quality and quantity of sleep. There is a great deal of advice on hygiene and diet which essentially appeals to common sense. However, this may elude parents exasperated by nights without sleep and unable to calm their children. Below, there is a non-exhaustive list of advice to promote sleep in children.
- To do
- Keep a sleep ritual and prioritize this special moment with the child.
- Use the same sleep ritual on vacation, weekends and during the week.
- Observe the child and find the bedtime that suits them.
- Keep regular times for going to bed, getting up, naps and activities.
- Find stimulating activities during the day (especially physical exercise in the open air).
- Reduce the brightness of lights in the evening and open the shutters wide in the morning: the alternation of light/darkness is important to synchronize the biological clock with the day/night cycle.
- Provide a room favourable to sleep (good bedding, a stable temperature of 19-20°C, darkness or a little night light if the child asks for it, soft, soothing music...).
- To avoid
- No bottle to help the child to go to sleep.
- The child’s bed must be reserved for sleep – don’t fill it with toys.
- Going to bed must not be a punishment.
- Avoid drinks containing caffeine (cola-type soft drinks).
- Limit television time, especially in the evening (not more than 2 hours for children).
- No television in the child’s bedroom.
1 Mother’s Institute, survey of 1,780 mothers of children ages 1 to 11, January 2015.