Sleep problems are common among children. Your child's average sleep cycle can be disturbed by insomnia, bedtime fears, night terrors, sleepwalking, and bedwetting.
Some kids do not feel tired at their scheduled bedtime, while others have difficulty falling asleep without a parent present. In the middle of the night, some kids would always wake up wide awake. And would toss and turn or wake up their parents.
Many sleep issues in childhood are related to the children's daytime activities. Some studies show how electromagnetic frequency (EMF) from wireless devices, such as cellphones, tablets, and wifi, can decrease melatonin levels in the body. This exposure can result in disturbance of sleep patterns in children.
Causes of Children's Insomnia
It is essential to understand the causes of children's insomnia or sleeplessness.
- Medical, mental health, or developmental condition such as asthma, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or autism may have side effects on a child's sleep.
- Certain medications, such as steroids or antidepressants, may affect sleep too. A stuffy nose caused by allergies, growing pains, or itchy skin from eczema may disturb sleep patterns. It can help identify any problems that could interfere with children's sleep by making sure they undergo regular health exams.
- Caffeine found in soda and energy drinks will keep children awake at night. Try to restrict the caffeine intake of your child after lunchtime. Aim to limit consumption of these types of beverages, if possible.
- The most ubiquitous technologies – smartphones, wifi, and home appliances – exist through Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs). These are areas of energy that are invisible and human-made. Charged EMF particles generate an electric field that affects the human body and the quality of our sleep.
The pineal gland secretes melatonin to control the sleep-wake cycle of a human primarily. Proper sleep is an effective antioxidant for, among other things, combating cancer, mental health problems, and ageing.
However, melatonin is susceptible to LF-EMFs since it appears to be light, thus inhibiting the body's melatonin development. Moreover, blue light, the same kind of light emitted by our smartphones, laptops, and tablets, is also drawn to EMF.
So, the pineal gland will detect these EMFs as light, and it would be unable to carry out its average melatonin production. Our constant exposure to EMF affects our melatonin production and thus, makes us susceptible, not only to sleeping disorders but also to other diseases.
- Parents cannot ignore or neglect children's display of stress. Children may also experience anxiety even though they are young.
They may fail in school, encounter difficulties with their peers, or even be a target for bullying. Stress at home may also arise from their parents' marital problems or changes in the family, such as the birth of a new baby. Child anxiety can also occur from changes to the sleeping arrangements, such as sharing a bedroom with a sibling, parent, or grandparent.
Stress affects the sleep of children. Help them relax with deep breathing, a warm bath, and a relaxing bedtime routine. Parents should also begin to teach them healthy ways of handling stress during the day and prevent stress from disturbing their sleep at night.
The good news is that awareness of and research into disturbed sleep is increasing. Parents can help resolve most sleep problems by changing behaviours and sleep habits. One place to start is a change in bedtime routines and practices.
Should I give my child melatonin?
For children with sleep disorders, behavioural strategies should be the first step before resorting to medication use.
Melatonin is a prescription-only pharmaceutical product. There are no data available to support long-term use. Although melatonin appears to be effective for adults, there is a lack of evidence for its routine use in kids.
Better sleep for Kids
Parents should discover ways to change the behaviour and environment for better sleep.
- Avoid napping in the daytime.
- Dinner time should at least be 2 hours before bedtime.
- Develop a routine of predictable and relaxing bedtime. Practice the same rituals such as storybook reading, turning on night lights, and sleep sounds in the bedroom.
- Decrease the children's EMF exposure during the day and keep their bedrooms free of wireless devices.
- Limit light exposure and avoid screen time for at least an hour before bedtime.
- The child should sleep consistently in their beds.
- Bedrooms are meant to be dark, quiet, and have a comfortable temperature.
- Place a plastic sheet over the mattress.
- Minimize fluid intake and drinking before bedtime. Ask your child to use the bathroom before getting them ready for sleep.
- Be alert for bedwetting incidents. Consider telling your child's doctor if the problem continues.
Children should fall asleep without being rocked to sleep in their cribs or beds. Introduce consistent and good sleeping habits to children. A balance of discipline and patience can help develop better habits and improve sleep behaviour. Good sleep habits will help children fall asleep quickly so adults could enjoy their restful nights.
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Written by: Donna Costa and Chloe Yang