see also Sleep Problems, Sleep Problems During Pregnancy, Sleep Problems in Infants
Except when child is ill, disturbed sleep may be due to irregular bedtimes, overtiredness, meals and drinks of tea or coffee too close to bedtime, food Allergy, stuffy bedrooms, too few or too many bedclothes, noise, or disruption of the child's regular sleeping pattern by the arrival of a new baby or the start of new school term; if the child gets up to go to the toilet several times a night, he or she may have a urinary tract infection. Often, however, tension and Anxiety are to blame.
Nightmares and night terrors (in which the child wakes screaming and terrified) are usually considered to be anxiety attacks, and can be brought on by a frightening story or an incident on television. At some time or another they are common in most young children. Sleepwalking, which is more common in children between the age of five and ten, occurs because those parts of the brain which control the muscles stay awake.
Need for sleep decreases with age. Newborn babies need about 16 hours, two-year-olds about 12 hours, six-year-olds about 10 hours, and twelve-year-olds about 9 hours. Sleep encourages body to manufacture growth hormone, which in turn encourages body to manufacture proteins for growth and repair. Sudden friskiness around bedtime is a reliable sign that child is exhausted and needs to switch off. Persistent sleep problems require constitutional treatment.
Specific remedies to be given at bedtime for up to 14 nights; if no improvement, consult your homeopath
- Disturbed sleep due to shock or fright Aconite 30c
- Child sleeps with eyes open, moans in sleep, irritable and impossible to please when awake Chamomilla 30c
- Sleeplessness due to excitement and nerves, child apprehensive by nature Gelsemium 30c
- Child irritable, wakes around 4 am Nux 30c
- Child sleeps on stomach, grinds teeth and jerks violently during sleep, wakes in a fright, suffers from worms China 30c
- Child wakes in an excited state and starts playing with toys Coffea 30c
- Child sleeps lightly, jerks in sleep, disturbed sleep triggered off by emotional upset Ignatia 30c
- Sleepwalking, especially if child is thin and has a large head Silicea 30c
- Child weeps and screams in sleep Phosphorus 30c
- Child has night terrors, sleepwalks, has fidgety hands Kali brom. 30c
- Child starts and cries out in anxiety during sleep, has head sweats Calcarea 30c
- Child sleeps for short periods only, moans during sleep Antimonium tart. 30c
- One disturbed night causes bad sleep pattern for several nights afterwards Cocculus 30c
Self-help: Give hot, milky drinks (not cocoa) or herbal infusions (chamomile, valerian, passionflower, skullcap) at bedtime. Relax child with a warm bath before bed, and avoid late meals.
If child wakes screaming and crying, offer comfort and reassurance but don't ask what is the matter; discuss it in the morning. If the crying continues, put your head round the door every 10 minutes or so just to reassure the child that you are still there, but don't pick him or her up or offer a drink. He or she may cry for an hour or more before going to sleep again, but the next time sleep usually comes more quickly, and the next time more quickly still, until sleep is unbroken right through the night.
If child is crying but asleep, do not wake him or her. If child sleepwalks, gently guide him or her back to bed and put a gate at top of stairs to prevent accidents.
If child becomes frisky at bedtime, goes to bed tense, and wakes easily in first sleep, try bringing bedtime forward by 15 minutes each night until sleep is continuous; if child then starts waking too early in the morning, move bedtime back by 15 minutes each night until he or she sleeps later.
Always look for the underlying causes, mental or physical, of disturbed sleep, and never punish a child by sending him or her to bed, or bed and bedroom will become tense, uncomfortable places. If sleep problems appear to have an emotional origin, psychotherapy or family therapy should be considered.