“Inappropriate sleep associations are the primary cause of frequent nightwakings," said Dr. Stephanie Zandieh, director of the Pediatric Sleep Disorders and Apnea Center at The Valley Hospital. "Sleep associations are those conditions that are habitually present at the time of sleep onset and in the presence of which the infant or child has learned to fall asleep."
Dr. Zandieh shares some helpful tips on to help young children fall asleep, and stay asleep, throughout the night:
Develop an appropriate sleep schedule with an early bedtime:
Surprisingly, the more tired your child is, the more times he or she will awaken during the night. Therefore, be sure a child continues to take naps during the day and parents set an early bedtime.
Introduce a security or love object to your child:
A transitional object, like a stuffed toy, doll or blanket, helps a child feel safe and secure when you are not present. Help your child become attached to a security object by including it as a part of the bedtime routine.
Put your child to bed awake:
After the bedtime routine, put your child into his or her crib awake and leave the room. Remember, the key to having children sleep through the night is to have them learn to fall asleep on their own, so they can put themselves back to sleep when they naturally awaken during the night.
If your child cries or yells, check on him or her. Wait for as long or as short a time as you wish. The visits should be brief (one minute) and non-stimulating. Calmly tell you child it’s time to go to sleep. The purpose of returning to the room is to reassure your child that you are still present and to reassure yourself that your child is okay.
Be consistent and don’t give up:
The first few nights are likely to be very challenging and often the second or third night is worse than the first night. However, within a few nights to a week, you will begin to see improvement.
If you are concerned about your child’s sleeping habits or would like support in helping your child to develop healthy sleeping habits, please make an appointment at Valley Medical Group’s Pediatric Sleep Disorders and Apnea Center by calling (201) 447-8152.