Assessment of Sleep Problems
by Namra Sarwar
Sleep disorders are often not recognized by general practitioners. It is important to establish:
- The nature and development of the sleep problem.
- Whether the child’s sleep problems and activities have any adverse affect on the child’s sleep pattern. Asses the typical day and night routine, including evening activities leading upto bedtime, getting to sleep, disturbances during sleep, getting up and level of alertness and activities during the day.
Average Sleep of Infants, Toddlers and School Aged Children
Newborn infants have irregular sleep cycles which take about 6 months to settled. While newborns sleep an average of 16 to 17 hours per day, they may only sleep 1 or 2 hours at a time. As children get older, the total number of hours they need for sleep decreases. However, different children have different needs. It is normal for even a 6 month old to wake up briefly during the night, but these awakenings should only last a few minutes and children should be able to go back to sleep easily on their own.
Toddlers and Preschoolers
Many parents find their toddler’s bedtime one of the hardest parts of the day. It is common for children this age to resist going to sleep, especially if there are older siblings who are still awake. Toddlers and preschoolers usually need 10 to 12 hours of sleep each night.
Sleep and School-aged Children (5-12 years)
Children aged five to 12 need 10-11 hours of sleep. At the same time, there is an increasing demand on their time from school (e.g., homework), sports and other extracurricular and social activities. In addition, school aged children become more interested in TV, computers, the media and Internet as well as caffeine products – all of which can lead to difficulty falling asleep, nightmares and disruptions to their sleep. In particular, watching TV close to bedtime has been associated with bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep, anxiety around sleep and sleeping fewer hours.
Sleep problems and disorders are prevalent at this age. Poor or inadequate sleep can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems such as hyperactivity and cognitive problems that impact on their ability to learn in school.