It can take a while before babies and children sleep through the night. While, for some children, this doesn’t cause any problems, for others it can lead to difficulties staying awake during the day and affect their diet and behaviour. It can also be exhausting for parents, particularly if they have other siblings to care for. Each child is different, and some need more sleep than others, so it’s important to do what you think will suit you and your family best. Children who have long-term health conditions may also find it more difficult to sleep through the night.
Doctors at King’s College Hospital Dubai can advise you about how to help your child to sleep better, and help you work out the best way to manage paediatric sleep disorders, whether they are related to pre-existing conditions or not. If necessary they can refer you to a supportive team of psychologists who have experience of sleep problems and can advise on the best way forward.
How do I get my child to go to bed?
It’s a good idea to establish a routine, and to be consistent, even if it means altering your own social life for a while.
- Put your child to bed at the same time each evening, giving them time to relax and settle at least 20 minutes before you want them to sleep. Gradually bring this time forward by 5-10 minutes each week until you reach the bedtime you want.
- Spend some time with your child settling them quietly in their room before you leave them for the night. Perhaps read a story to them before you leave, but decide in advance how long you will stay and stick to it.
- Some children settle better with a comforter – a favourite toy, cloth or dummy.
- Leave a beaker of water next to the bed or cot and, if they prefer, a nightlight.
- If your child keeps getting out of bed, quietly take them back as many times as necessary without becoming impatient or angry.
What do I do if my child keeps waking in the night?
Try to work out whether something is waking your child up. If he or she seems hungry, having some milk or cereal before bed can help.
- Some children are afraid of the dark so leaving a nightlight on can help
- Your child may be worrying about something and/or having nightmares; try to find out whether this is the case.
- Adjusting the heating in the room may also help as being too hot or cold can disturb your child’s sleep.
- It may also help to turn off anything that stimulates your child an hour or so before bed, for example, the TV, tablet, or mobile phone.
At our medical centres in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, we have doctors who can advise you on your child’s sleep problems and help work up a plan that may involve:
- Allowing your child to sleep in the same room as a sibling; in some cases, this can help both of them sleep through the night.
- Couples may be advised to work together to agree a plan to help your child. It’s best to discuss this before you have to make a decision in the middle of the night about what’s best.
- Don’t allow your child’s sleep problems to overwhelm you, come and see us sooner rather than later and we’ll help you get back on track.