Sleep disorders are very common in infants and children under 3 years of age.
Many people find it difficult to fall asleep and wake up several times a night, awakened by nightmares, dreams or night terrors. These phenomena can last for many months or even years.
What is sleep disorder?
The sleep of a toddler can be disturbed by major learning such as walking or language, a desire for autonomy or even daily hassles that will manifest as nightmares or night terrors. Some will be affected by this disorder early in life. In very young children, we talk about minor or transient disorders, sometimes with real insomnia.
These situations result most of the time from a bad learning of sleep or a fusional relationship of the baby with his parents or his nurse , from the start present or installed after a particular event.
Sleep disorders that occur transiently are the consequence of an intercurrent event: nightmare, night terror, gastro-oesophageal reflux, difficult digestion, dental flare, otitis, change in daily life (entry into nursery, holidays, separation of parents , school fatigue in kindergarten), etc.
Understand sleep cycles
The newborn has a biological clock that is synchronized with the feedings. As a result, it is not yet the difference between day and night and sleeps almost all the time. The newborn has a sleep cycle of 50 to 60 minutes. He falls asleep in restless sleep until about 1 year old.
His sleep will depend on his cycles. Often, young parents can not help but fidget around baby as soon as they have their eyes open, this comes from a fear they have of not stimulating their newborn enough. It should be known that stimulation must be done before bottle-feeding. The baby sucks and needs to rest afterwards. If you move around him, you prevent him from going back to sleep. As soon as he yawns it's time to go to sleep.
By the age of 3 months, most pups start their night, and sleep 5 to 6 hours in a row. It is at this age that one can begin to set up a ritual for bedtime . It is between 3 and 6 months that the biological clock of baby reaches the maturity necessary to organize its phases of sleep. Baby now needs landmarks to be able to sleep. It must be conditioned to associate darkness with sleep and light with the excitement of the day. Light and noises are the best "time givers" during the day.
At 6 months, it is synchronized at the level of rhythms. The bedtime is maximum 20:30. It is necessary to try as much as possible not to miss the train of 21:00, otherwise it will be necessary to wait for the next one!
From 6 months to 5 years, the amount of nighttime sleep does not vary. Even if the baby does not spend as much as the 4 year old, he needs a lot of sleep to validate his learning. It is necessary to know that it is during its sleep that is partly played out the physical, intellectual and emotional development as for example the development of the immune system, the central nervous system, the healing of the bobos, the validation of the acquired and the emotional adaptation . It is therefore important that the baby has his quota of hours.
The difficulties of falling asleep
Baby may have several reasons for refusing to go to bed or having trouble falling asleep. He may be tired, lacking sleep. In this case, he is agitated, excited and is not able to relax to find his sleep.
Its day-night rhythm can be disturbed
- This is the case when the baby is still fed at night (but it should not be after 4 or 5 months)
- When the lifestyle of the family is irregular
- Or when the child opposes being in bed at night or wakes up frequently at night and recovers his lack of sleep in the morning
- Indeed, delaying bedtime shifts the time of daybreak, nap and meal schedules, and breaks the baby's rhythm.
- Naps that are too late can also cause sleep difficulties.
- He may have difficulty separating from his parents. This situation is frequent in case of a fusion relationship between the baby and his mother or when bad habits have been taken to fall asleep: bottle feeding in the bed, falling asleep in the parents' bed or cradled in the arms, too much sleep rituals long etc.
Other causes of sleep disorders
- ENT infections (nose, throat, ears) or digestive disorders;
- A room where the child does not feel very comfortable;
- Family problems or school difficulties;
- Parents anxious or too rigid.
The child may also lack limits
When bedtime and nap schedules change from day to day or when baby sees his parents rushing towards him as soon as he cries in bed (guilt or fear of the neighborhood), baby will hardly come into arm of Morpheus.
Nightmares are bad dreams , usually arriving late at night. They can appear around the age of 2 to 3 years, and are more common between 3 and 10 years. Subsequently, their frequency decreases. In the event of a nightmare, the child starts screaming, calls his parents and lives a great fright, even after waking up. The toddler needs to be reassured by his parents and to feel them close to him. Unlike the night terror, in case of nightmare, the child seeks contact with his parents. In case of night terror, contact with parents may intensify the phenomenon. The child remembers very well his bad dream. Reassure him and once calmed, go leaving the door of his room open.
The nocturnal awakenings are very frequent. At the end of the paradoxical sleep cycle (during the latency phase), infants wake up briefly, from a few seconds to ten minutes, before going back to sleep.
These awakenings are normal and physiological . The child moves, sometimes cries a little, then goes back to sleep. Around 8 months or 1 year, some babies even play alone in their bed.
When the falling asleep is difficult or that baby does not know how to fall asleep alone, he will call his parents at each physiological awakening to be reassured and will want to reproduce the same conditions of falling asleep at the time of the bedtime: he will ask to be cradled arms, insist that his parents stay in his room, will claim his pacifier ...
Before the age of one, sleep cycles are very short and the baby can wake up 7 or 8 times a night.
While growing up, the child of 2 or 3 years can still wake up to 3 times per night .
Nighttime awakenings generally occur in the second half of the night. At the beginning of the night, until midnight or one o'clock in the morning, the child of more than 6 months usually sleeps well and deeply because it chains several cycles of slow sleep, without paradoxical sleep.
The night terrors
They are rarer than nightmares, but more impressive for parents. However, they are safe for the child. They usually appear when the child is between 18 months and 4 years old. They tend to disappear after the age of 5 years.
In case of night terror, the child is not aware of the presence of his parents because he is in a half-sleep. Night terrors usually last from 1 to 5 minutes, but may last longer in some children.
They occur 1 to 2 hours after the youngest has fallen asleep, during deep slow sleep . However, night terrors can also occur later in the night, as deep slow sleep returns to midnight sleep cycles.
You will see your child screaming, screaming, sitting on his bed, his eyes wide open and his gaze blank . Do not be surprised if he is aggressive. Once the episode is over, the child goes back to bed quickly without difficulty.
Do not try to wake up your child, it will only prolong the episode of terror. There is no point in talking to him or touching him, it would not help him and on the contrary he could get a big anger if you do. Stay right next to him and wait until he goes to sleep alone.
Should we always respond to baby crying while sleeping?
When the newborn baby or small infant cries at night, do not get up immediately : he is likely to go back to sleep.
If he sees you and feels your presence at each of his awakenings, he will take this habit and will never be able to calm himself.
Most of the time, when baby cries, it is a brief physiological awakening between two sleep cycles, or a dream or a small nightmare.
Do not think he's hungry every time he cries! Wait a few minutes and get up only if it does not calm down and screams louder and louder.
Baby wakes up at night and goes back to bed with a bottle or breastfeeding?
It can be a bad sleep ritual: when the baby or child has a habit of falling asleep with a bottle or on the breast of his mother at bedtime, he will claim the same thing when he wakes up at night because it is his method for him to sleep.
It can be a long-standing misunderstanding: Parents often think in the first year that the baby is still hungry when he wakes up at night. This impression can be maintained for a long time because the infant drinks the bottle feeds the breast when it is proposed. He then gets used to eating when he wakes up in the middle of the night, and claims his due each time.
What to do ?
When baby takes 4 to 5 daily meals in a quantity adapted to its weight, remove baby bottles or feed at night. He no longer needs to eat at this time. Calm him another way when he wakes up at night, letting him go back to sleep alone.
Do not add flour to your evening feeding bottle or delay the last meal - these are usually not effective measures to keep baby awake at night. Talk to your pediatrician.
What if baby calls all the time at night?
It is essential that the child knows how to fall asleep alone in his room, without you and without bottle, at bedtime.
If it does not, he will not go back to sleep alone at night when he wakes up "normally. Teach him to find the only sleep, shorten if possible ritual of sleep.
The day you decide to stop responding to his crying at night, try to proceed in stages:
• Try to wait longer and longer before going to his room when he cries
• If possible, reduce the time of presence and contact when you go to see him to reassure him: first touching him and talking to him, then staying in his room and talking, then being out of the room and in the room. soothing from afar with your voice.
• Try not to sleep next to him.
Baby loses his pacifier
Before the age of 6 or 8 months, baby has trouble finding his nipple alone in his bed and can cry whenever he needs it.
- Put several nipples around him in his bed
- Teach him to grab it
Some nocturnal awakenings or difficulties with falling asleep may occur occasionally, such as when a baby is ill or when he has dental flare-ups, or when he is worried or when he lives on days that are too emotional or in change. In these cases, everything gets back to normal in a few days.
The importance of bedtime ritual
The evening ritual will allow the child to have landmarks. This routine can be broken down into 3 times. The first time is the time of the bath or the shower and the pajamas. Not too hot the bath, otherwise the heat will stimulate it! Then comes the relaxation phase, with a massage, songs or stories. Then comes the moment of affection. That is to say hugs and kisses. It is also the moment to tell him what is expected of him and create a positive image. The ritual usually lasts between 5 minutes and 20 minutes. And for it to be effective, you have to repeat the same things, in the same order. If the mother is breastfeeding, breastfeeding must take place before the routine. This ritual will allow relaxation to fall asleep and help the child to "separate" from his parents as long.