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Debunking Nine Children's Sleep Myths

on Sun, 11/03/2013 - 12:33

 Are you providing the right tools for your children so they can sleep well? The following sleep myths have been set in the belief systems of many parents from past generations. When parents follow these myths, further sleep problems can be created. Find out what these myths are and how they can actually worsen sleep issues.

1. If my child skips naps he will sleep better at night
Children need naps until they turn four –years- old. There is a strong link between nap deprivation and nighttime wakings and early rising. Children need both good quality and consistent quantity of naps. When this is sacrificed, parents find themselves getting up at night more than expected or handling an early bird. Although there is the occasional fluke that a child slept well after a skipped nap, it is not the norm. Consistently missed naps can lead to crankiness and disrupted nighttime sleep (for both parents and children).
2. If my baby awakens at night she must be hungry
Babies who are very young do need to be fed at night. However, every cry and night waking is not due to hunger. Babies and older children get up for several reasons. Some other common reasons include, nap deprivation, hitting developmental milestones, inability to self soothe, and illness. Keeping an eating and sleeping log to pinpoint which cries may be due to hunger or other causes can help avoid feeding at every cry. By avoiding feeding at every cry, babies learn not to depend on nursing or a bottle to put themselves to sleep.
3. If I put my child to bed late he will sleep longer and into the morning
Similar to skipping naps, late bedtimes can lead to night wakings and early rising. This makes it crucial that we put children to bed at their ideal bedtime to avoid sleep issues. An ideal bedtime is based on the child’s age, development, and life circumstances (such as their required wake- up time for school). Chronically late bedtimes can cause nighttime disruptions. It is also harder for a child to fall asleep easily when he misses the ideal bedtime. His internal body clock will know it is too late and there will be an increase in his Cortisol level.
4. If my child fights sleep he doesn’t need that much
Children need about 10-11 hours of uninterrupted night time sleep until they turn 10 years old. That is a lot more than most parents realize and most children get. When children fight sleep it is usually because they are over-tired or they do not know how to soothe themselves to sleep. Getting the right amount of sleep is crucial for cognitive functioning, mood, and the ability to learn in school.
5. Rice cereal will help a baby sleep better
Many parents hear this often. They even look forward to the day the pediatrician will give the green light on solids so they can finally get some much needed sleep. What they find instead is that their baby is still getting up at night with the rice cereal in his belly. Or, their baby gets up more from the discomfort of adjusting to solids. Yes, there are those rare cases where the rice cereal does help, however, in most cases the night wakings were not purely out of hunger.
6. Letting children fall asleep in front of the TV helps them sleep better
The fact is electronic devices can stimulate children and make it harder to fall asleep. It also causes children to depend on the television to put themselves back to sleep during normal partial arousal wakings during the night. So, even if a child fell asleep fairly quickly with the TV running in the background, he may need it again in the middle of the night to put himself back sleep.
7. Sleep problems are outgrown when babies get older
Most parents believe after a baby gets a little older he will just naturally start falling asleep on his own. This is definitely not always the case. There are several school-aged children whose parents ask for help with sleep training. Just waiting it out can cause stress on caregivers as well as prevent a child from developing much needed self-soothing skills.
8. Infants need complete silence to sleep
Infants seem to benefit from white noise that blocks out the outside noises, like loud vehicles, or creaking floor boards. Also, in utero they experienced very loud background noise. According to Pediatrician and author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block”, Harvey Karp, strong rhythmic noise can be beneficial for babies. A white noise machine that plays all night can be a helpful tool for babies to improve their sleep. It is important not to have the volume up too high. You can read more here regarding decibel levels.
9. If my child jumps out of his crib he is ready for a big boy bed
Parents quickly move their children out of the crib and into a toddler bed due to fears they will hurt themselves when climbing out of the crib. Although safety precautions need to be taken when children are climbing out of their cribs, it does not mean they are automatically ready to move to beds. The concept of staying in bed all night long and not leaving their room, is not cognitively established in children until at least two- and- a- half- years- old. Moving a child into a bed early can cause the child to awaken more at night with the new found freedom to leave his room.