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Goodnight, sleep tight: Conquering common sleep disorders in preschoolers

Bella Heim

Bella Heim

Bella is a mummy of three, writer, and photographer. She's not afraid to admit that she relies on a little red wine to keep the chaos of motherhood at bay. When she's not dodging toys and dirty diapers, you'll find her documenting the wild and wonderful ride of parenthood, and adding a splash of inspiration, creativity, and a healthy dose of mum humour along the way.
Created on Oct 29, 2023 · 6 mins read
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Imagine your little one drifting off to sleep without a fuss, night after night. Imagine not having to spend hours trying to coax them into bed or dealing with middle-of-the-night wake-up calls. It all sounds wonderful, but too good to be true, right? As parents, we all know the feeling of extreme exhaustion and frustration that comes with trying to get our little sweethearts to fall asleep. But what if I told you that you can turn the bedtime battle into a peaceful surrender? First things first, you need to understand the fact that preschoolers may have a hard time getting a good night’s rest due to their developing internal body clock, separation anxiety, or nightmares. There could also be underlying problems that may need to be addressed with your doctor. In this guide, we have gathered everything you need to know to help your preschooler snooze like a champ. Let’s get ready to say goodbye to the bedtime struggles and hello to peaceful nights! Yay to that!

Step 1: Establish a consistent bedtime routine

Time for bed, little ones! Just like a superhero needs their trusty cape and mask, your child needs a consistent bedtime routine to help them get a good night’s sleep. So, set a specific time for your child to go to bed each night, and stick to it like vegemite to bread (yum!) Having a consistent bedtime routine can help regulate your child’s internal clock, making it easier for them to fall asleep.

Step 2: Create a relaxing bedtime environment

When it comes to creating the perfect sleep environment for your preschooler, it’s all about creating a cozy, comfortable atmosphere. Keep the bedroom dark with curtains or blinds, and use a white noise machine or a calming essential oil diffuser to help your child relax. And don’t forget to set the thermostat to a comfortable temperature – nothing ruins a good sleep like being too hot or too cold.

Step 3: Limit screen time before bed

We all love our screens, but they can be a real sleep thief when it comes to our little ones. The blue light emitted from screens can suppress melatonin production and make it harder for your child to fall asleep. So, instead of watching Peppa Pig on repeat, try reading a book or telling stories before bed to help your child wind down (They will love the bonding time! And you’ll love the peace and quiet).

Step 4: Call in the sleep squad if needed

If your child is still having trouble sleeping despite your best efforts, don’t be afraid to seek help. Consult your pediatrician or a sleep specialist for further advice. They may be able to recommend strategies or treatments that can help your child get the rest they need. Don’t worry, you’re not alone in this, they’re the sleep experts and they’re here to help you and your little one get the best sleep possible.

Step 5: Know your sleep disruptors

Have you ever heard of the term “sleep like a baby”? Yeah, well, that’s not always the case for our little ones. There are a few common sleep disorders that can make bedtime a real battle royale, like insomnia, sleep apnea, and night terrors. It is important to know the basics so you can spot them and take action.

Insomnia: This is when your child has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. It’s like they’re trying to play a game of “I Spy” with their eyelids open. This can be caused by stress, anxiety or other emotional issues. To help your child cope with insomnia, you can try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, kid’s meditation, or some children’s yoga.

Sleep Apnea: This is when your little one has pauses in breathing during sleep. It’s like they’re trying to hold their breath for as long as possible. This can lead to frequent waking, difficulty sleeping, and daytime fatigue. If you suspect that your child may have sleep apnea, it’s important to consult with a pediatrician or sleep specialist. They can help you to identify the cause and recommend treatment options to keep your little one breathing easy throughout the night.

Night Terrors: This is when your sweet little one has sudden screams or crying during sleep, accompanied by thrashing or kicking. While night terrors can be scary for us parents, they’re not typically harmful to your child. It’s nothing that a warm hug and a little extra love can’t fix. To try avoiding night terrors, it’s best to avoid stimulating activities before bedtime, like playing video games or watching a horror movie. And remember, your child is safe and loved, and they are so lucky that you’ll always be there for them.

Step 6: Bedtime behaviour and communication

It’s important to understand your little one’s behaviour and find ways to communicate with them in a way that is both effective and respectful. Every child is unique and each has different needs. Some children may be like “Noooo, bedtime already?” while others may be more like “Yay, bedtime!” It’s important to try and understand where your child is coming from and respect their needs as much as possible. Try paying attention to not just the words they’re saying but also the tone of their voice and body language. This can help you understand their needs and feelings better and respond to them in a way that is more effective.

Setting boundaries is just as important as communication! This means clearly letting them know what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour at bedtime. For example, if your child is having trouble sleeping, it may be helpful to establish a rule that they are not allowed to get out of bed after they have gone to sleep. Always remind yourself to be patient with your child as they learn and grow, and always communicate with empathy and understanding. And don’t forget, bedtime isn’t all about sleeping, it’s also the perfect time for cuddling and bonding with your mini!

Step 7: Address other possible underlying issues

Did you know that stress, anxiety, or emotional problems can also cause sleep disorders?

Preschoolers are likely to have a hard time expressing their emotions and may not be able to explain why they are feeling anxious or stressed. Try to be more aware of any changes in your child’s behaviour or mood, and to talk to them about their feelings (and a whole lot of cuddles!). Working through their feelings may just do the trick to help them sleep better. And if it is too much to handle for everyone, take a chance and ask for help. The advice of a therapist or counselor may really be beneficial for everyone.

Parents, we hear you! Bedtime can really be a struggle when it comes to young kids. So mums and dads, you should be really proud of yourselves for being there for your little ones, night after night. Know that you are doing an amazing job (come on, give yourself a pat on the back) and it’s important to remember to give yourself credit for that. We hope that this guide has helped you with some tools and strategies to make bedtime a more peaceful experience for both you and your little one. Always keep in mind that every child is unique and may have different needs, and that’s totally okay. Even the toughest nights are temporary, and the love and joy that your child brings to your life is worth it all. You are not alone, and you got this!

Wishing you and your little ones sweet dreams tonight and every night.

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