Sleep Disturbances in Early Childhoodby Carle O'Neil, Waln brown
Childhood sleep disturbances are seldom life threatening, but they can be draining for parents concerned about their
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Some children are difficult to get to sleep or keep asleep throughout the night. Such difficulties range from mild and occasional to severe and prolonged, and are referred to as "sleep disturbances," "sleep problems" or "sleep disorders."
Childhood sleep disturbances are seldom life threatening, but they can be draining for parents concerned about their child's well-being as well as disrupt their own sleep to the point of exhaustion and frustration. At such times, what began as the child's sleep problem hinders the parents' sleeping patterns and produces parental feelings of anger, self-doubt and guilt – even conflict.
Recently, early childhood patterns of sleep have become a subject of scientific study. This has resulted in welcome, but incomplete, knowledge about the need for sleep and the disturbances caused by the lack of it. Although there is more to learn, clearly identifiable patterns of sleep disturbances and their causes have been confirmed – along with an understanding of the threats they pose to health. There also are a growing number of accredited clinics specializing in sleep disturbances.
Fortunately, most children do not need such highly specialized services. Some parents have "easy sleepers" with few or no problems at bedtime or throughout the night. Those parents who do encounter problems usually find ways to deal with them on their own, or with the help of a doctor or books and articles on the subject.
Most sleep disturbances arise from one or a combination of three causes: situation, development and habit. Opinion differs how best to deal with childhood sleep disturbances, particular "habitual" sleep disturbances. Therefore, parents would do well to carefully consider all points of view and choose a course that best serves them, perhaps with the counsel of their doctor.
On one thing, certainly, there is common agreement. Responding in a harsh or punitive manner to a child bothered by a sleep disturbance is inappropriate. As in other aspects of childrearing, firmness is sometimes required, but loving firmness is vastly different from harshness and abuse.
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