“Honey, it is your time to get up….” Sleep difficulties among infants and young children can make for a challenging next day for the whole family. A preliminary study finds that behavioral therapy can help reduce many of the sleep problems found among infants and children.

The study, found in the journal SLEEP is based on a review of 52 treatment studies for 2,500 infants and toddlers.
Jodi A. Mindell, PhD, of St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, spearheaded the review. “The results indicate that behavioral therapies produce reliable and durable changes in bedtime problems and night wakings in infants and children,” wrote Mindell.

“Across all studies, 94 percent report that behavioral interventions produced clinically significant improvements in bedtime problems and/or night wakings. Approximately 82 percent of children benefit from treatment and the majority maintain these results for three to six months.”

Mindell noted that additional research is needed to examine the delivery methods of treatment, longer term efficacy and the role of pharmacological agents.

According to Mindell, studies have shown that 20 to 30 percent of young children have significant bedtime problems and/or night wakings. In addition, night wakings are among the most common sleep problems in infants and toddlers, with 25 to 50 percent of children over the age of six months waking during the night, added Mindell.

AASM offers the following tips to help a child sleep better:
• Follow a consistent bedtime routine. Set aside 10 to 30 minutes to get your child ready to go to sleep each night.
• Establish a relaxing setting at bedtime.
• Interact with your child at bedtime. Don’t let the TV, computer or video games take your place.
• Keep your children from TV programs, movies, and video games that are not right for their age.
• Do not let your child fall asleep while being held, rocked, fed a bottle, or while nursing.
• At bedtime, do not allow your child to have foods or drinks that contain caffeine (e.g., chocolate and sodas). Try not to give him or her any medicine that has a stimulant at bedtime (e.g., cough medicines and decongestants).

Experts recommend that infants (three to 11 months) get 14 to 15 hours of sleep per night, while toddlers get 12 to 14 hours, pre-schoolers 11 to 13 hours and school-age children 10 to 11 hours.

A child who gets enough sleep and sleeps well is more likely to be cheerful during the day. The better the child sleeps, the happier the entire family will be.

Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine