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7 Ways to Combat Kids' Sleep Problems

Bedtime tips for getting kids to sleep through the night.
WebMD Magazine - Expert Commentary
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Your toddler wakes up several times a night, calling for "Mommy." Your 6-year-old simply refuses to go to bed. Catering to both, you and your spouse are in and out of bed all night - and perpetually exhausted.

Not surprisingly, parents are twice as likely to say they sleep less than six hours a night if they have a child who ranks at the bottom for shuteye. And the consequences can be serious. Sleep affects mood, the immune system, and the ability to learn new skills. A restless child can also cause stress on a marriage or relationship. Bottom line: Finding a sleep solution is important for your family's health and happiness. Here are some tips to make sure everyone in your household gets a good night's rest:

Start a routine. Initiate a nightly routine that signals that it's almost time for bed, and follow this ritual at roughly the same time every night. This may include brushing teeth, taking a warm bath, putting on PJs, and story time.

Set the scene. Create a quiet, comfortable bedroom without distractions, such as a TV.

Track caffeine. Watch out for hidden sources of caffeine in your child's diet, such as chocolate, tea, or soda drinks, and coffee-flavored desserts. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 26% of children 3 and older drink at least one caffeinated beverage a day - and consequently lose 30 minutes of sleep nightly.

Watch the medications. Ask your doctor or pediatrician about anything in your child's medications that might encourage alertness, including over-the-counter drugs for colds and flu.

Put them down drowsy. Leave when your kids are on the cusp of sleep but haven't yet surrendered to it. If you are there the moment they fall asleep, they will have a difficult time going back to sleep on their own if they awaken in the middle of the night.

ID problems. Learn to recognize sleep problems. The most common in children include multiple nighttime awakenings, snoring, trouble breathing, and loud or heavy breathing while sleeping. These problems can lead to unhealthy daytime behavior, such as being overtired, sleepy, or cranky.

Talk with your doctor. Consult your pediatrician about sleep -- even if your MD doesn't broach the topic. He or she may have further insight, knowing your child's health history, that could help.

Reviewed on April 03, 2007

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