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THE SLEEP PATTERNS

How many hours of sleep are necessary for a child?
Where should a child sleep at night?
For how long should the baby sleep in the day?
What are the causes for bad sleep?
What should you do if the child is awake the whole night?
 
Friday, 05 August 2011
Written by : DoctorNDTV Team
Checked by :Dr David Harvey
Retired Professor of Paediatrics and Neonatal Medicine,
Imperial College School of Medicine,
University of London
Retired Professor of Paediatrics and Neonatal Medicine,
Imperial College School of Medicine,
University of London
 
How many hours of sleep are necessary for a child?
How many hours of sleep are necessary for a child?Ideal sleep is when a child goes to sleep without difficulty and sleeps soundly throughout the night without waking up for a long period, and is refreshed and active the next morning. Good sleep means good physical and mental health.

A newborn baby should sleep an average of sixteen to eighteen hours a day. If your baby sleeps for just 10 hours a day or for around 20 hours, there is no cause for alarm as long as your baby seems healthy in every other way.

A newborn, in fact may sleep most of the day, though his sleep alternates between periods of wakefulness and deep sleep. By 3-4 months most babies have generally learnt to sleep in an apparently uninterrupted stretch of 6-8 hours, at night provided you schedule their feeding, bathing and playtime during daytime. By 7-12 months they should be accustomed to taking their long sleep at your convenience namely at night. When he is one to two years old, his sleeping hours lessen but his sleep is more sound. He sleeps around twelve hours at night and three hours or so during the day.

When he is three years or more, he may resist his afternoon sleep and may only have a short nap. At times he does not want to sleep at all in the afternoon. A child may stop his afternoon nap after he is six years of age. If your child wakes up fresh, is full of energy the next day, not irritable, his usual self, then he is getting enough sleep for his needs.
Where should a child sleep at night?
Where should a child sleep at night?Initially, a newborn sleeps with the mother in his bed or in a baby cot next to her. He needs constant care, feeding and regular change of nappies. At around nine months old, his cot can be shifted to a separate room or preferably to a corner in the same room. It is at this stage that most sleeping habits, good or bad develop, and once formed are difficult to change. In our country due to shortage of space, economic compulsions and cultural habits children continue to sleep in the same bed with the parents or in a separate cot in the same room.
For how long should the baby sleep in the day?
For how long should the baby sleep in the day?Even after your baby begins to sleep through the night, he will require one or two naps during the day. By the time he is a year old, a set pattern for his naps will emerge. Some babies nap right after breakfast, mid-morning, after lunch or in the late afternoon. Their naps can be as short as 20 minutes and as long as four hours. Napping depends on each baby’s individual needs.
What are the causes for bad sleep?
What are the causes for bad sleep?The child may have got into the habit of not sleeping soundly. Or he may have difficulty going to bed because of distraction at home. In early infancy, lack of sleep is usually due to hunger, increased ingestion of air giving rise to colic, over-clothing, as well as due to over-handling.

Due to climatic changes, a baby’s nose gets blocked due to dryness making it difficult for him to breathe through the nose, resulting in disturbed sleep. During the day most mothers change the nappies as soon as they are wet. Some people feel there is no harm in letting the child sleep with a wet nappy unless he has a bad rash, but children are more comfortable with a dry nappy. Mothers generally put the child to sleep in their lap and then put him to bed. On waking up at night he starts crying when he realises he is not in his mother’s lap. It is better to put the child on the cot in a state of semi-wakefulness and then let him fall asleep there.

Many mothers have the habit of picking up the child when he makes the slightest noise or when he is in a state of semi-wakefulness. If you pick up the child for every trivial reason, chances are that he will develop a habit of being carried around, a habit, which will be very difficult to change later.

A toddler at the age of two to three years becomes rather independent and enjoys defying his mother. At other times he is afraid of losing her. In such cases, a little reassurance and understanding is required. Children need to feel secure and loved. Make sure that the child is never excited at bedtime. If your child gets up crying in the middle of the night and scratches his bottom, chances are that he is suffering from pinworm infestation. Consult your paediatrician for the treatment.

After a child is six years of age, the usual causes of difficulty in sleeping are hard work at school or excessive play, leading to fatigue and over-exertion. A child who is under-nourished or anaemic or has problems at school or at home will also have difficulty in going to sleep.

To avoid unpleasantness it is always good to give advance notice to the child that bedtime is approaching. He may be busy watching television or reading a book. If you tell him that it is his bedtime and he should finish whatever he is doing in the next few minutes, there is less chance of a revolt. It is good to make sure that his room is properly ventilated and that he has a comfortable bed. If the child wants to take a doll or a toy or a piece of blanket with him to bed, let him do it. It is good to indulge him occasionally. He may like to keep the bed lamp on or the door open. But be firm when it is bedtime and do not give in to his demands to stay up late. If he refuses, hold him by the hand and take him to bed but do not punish him.

Most bad habits have their beginning in infancy and by the age of two it is difficult to get rid of them. A bad sleeping habit which has been present for a long time will not disappear in a few days. You will need all your tact, patience, firmness and your doctor’s advice to solve the problem.
What should you do if the child is awake the whole night?
What should you do if the child is awake the whole night?
  • After 6-9 months of age the baby’s waking at night, despite having been fed and tucked in should be handled with a resolute firmness and consistency, so that by experience the baby learns that there is a quiet time for all the members of the family and that has to be respected.

  • If the child cries on being placed in the crib at night and is otherwise healthy, or awakes crying in the middle of the night as a means of getting attention or food, then he should be reassured by minimum amount of physical contact. You should then depart from there and return after longer and longer intervals. This technique often allows the child to establish his own ability to fall back to sleep without any significant parental intervention.

  • The child should grow up with the idea that he is to stay in bed until morning. Be firm about not allowing him into your bed. If the child must be comforted, it should be done in his own bed.

  • Most children give up their crib by 18-24 months. If a shift is planned in the place your child sleeps due to the arrival of another sibling, the move should occur several weeks before or after the arrival of the new baby so as not to convey the sense of being 'displaced' by the new family member.
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