Contrary to popular belief, sleep is not a period in which relations with the outside world are limited. Sleep consists of four steps.
The first step is the period between sleep and wakefulness.
The second step is light sleep. The delta step is called deep sleep. Body rest takes place during this period and is closely related to body health. The REM stage (Rapid Eye Movement) means “rapid eye movements” and is usually a period of dreams. Spiritual rest takes place during this period and is closely related to mental health. Difficulty falling asleep and frequent awakenings are the most common conditions in preschool children. According to some studies, up to 25% of young children have sleep disturbances. It may be necessary to conduct extensive research to find the cause of this condition. In addition to the physiological disturbances that the child may be exposed to, psychological causes such as fear, anxiety or external environmental conditions may cause disruption of the sleep pattern.
The main causes of sleep disorders in children can be listed as follows:
• Daily routine of the family
• Cultural structure of the family
• Demographic structure of the family (people living at home, age and gender)
• Room distribution in the house (The environment where the child sleeps)
• Noise level in the house (External and internal factors)
• Parent-child bonding
• The temperament of the child
• The child’s reaction to physical conditions such as hot-cold
• Child’s psychological and social maturity level Co-sleeping An important factor affecting the child’s and parent’s sleep patterns is co-sleeping.
It is also common in our country that the child sleeps with the parents in their own room, in the parent’s room or in another bedroom where everyone else sleeps. This situation can sometimes occur due to economic reasons such as living in a house with few rooms, sharing the same room during holidays, or sometimes due to physiological reasons such as the child’s illness or psychological reasons such as fear and anxiety. Usually, behind the child’s desire to sleep with the parents lies the reasons arising from the parents. Especially in infancy and early childhood, parents lay children with them for their nutritional or protection needs and to have easy access to them. Even if the child has fallen asleep in their own room, they do not take the child back to bed when they come to the parent’s room at night for any reason, due to sleepiness or other reasons.
Parents’ anxieties, such as if a thief breaks in or an earthquake occurs, also appear as situations that reinforce the children’s sleeping behavior in the parent’s room. Nightmares are common in preschool and school age children. Unsupervised television programs can be said to be one of the main factors in the emergence of this type of behavior, but scary dreams can also come from the child’s own dream world. When faced with such a situation, we usually choose to reject the event or figure that we assume to have seen in the dream. However, your effort to reject this will never calm the child. Telling him you understand his fear will make him more willing to face his fear. In addition, having him tell about his dream, if he has difficulty in explaining, having his picture made will enable him to face his fear. After this stage, you can explain that the scary theme told to you verbally or by drawing is not actually real. Tips on how to deal with his fear will also be listened to more carefully. It will also help not to overestimate the child’s fear behavior, not to give exaggerated messages with your body language, not to panic and to approach the child calmly, to hug and calm him down, to put him back in bed and to sit next to him for as long as necessary. Since children who have nightmares do not go into a fully awake state when they react with fear, stroking their hair, holding their hand, talking to them in a soft voice will make it easier for them to fall asleep again. It may be necessary to seek specialist help when problems such as nightmares, night terrors, bedwetting or teeth grinding are long-lasting and prevent the child from sleeping at night.
According to Ainsworth’s attachment theory, insecurely attached children are more anxious; therefore, they experience much more difficulty when separated from their primary caregiver. This causes children to refuse to sleep or to show oppositional behaviors when it is time to sleep.
What to do?
It is known that many behavioral methods are effective on children in sleep disorders. However, in the implementation of these methods, experts, parents and other people in the child’s close environment should work together and in harmony. The first thing that parents should pay attention to is not to react to reinforce the behavior when the undesirable behavior occurs. Parents or others in the child’s immediate environment should ignore the child’s angry movements when it is time to go to bed or when they wake up at night.
If the child comes to the room where they sleep, he should not be as interested as possible, keep the interaction with the child short, make little eye contact and be told to go to his room in a sweet but determined way. If the child’s behavior is shaped at the desired level, conditioning can be achieved with various rewards. A child who has trouble sleeping in his own room will be more willing to continue the behavior if he receives small rewards for performing this behavior.
Watch out for these! • Care should be taken to ensure that the physical conditions of the room where the child will fall asleep are suitable for sleep, and the room temperature should not be too cold or too hot. Sleeping at temperatures higher than 24 0C causes more awakenings and a decrease in REM and Delta sleep. However, lowering the room temperature from 17 0C to 12 0C also negatively affects the content of dreams. • Trying to get your child to sleep more than they need is also a wrong action. Although the sleep duration shows some individual differences, it is about 16 hours in babies and 8 hours around the age of 12. A child who is accustomed to sleeping at the same time will achieve the normal sleep time for his age without giving you any trouble. In fact, taking a warm shower before sleeping will positively affect both falling asleep and the quality of sleep. • If the sleeping environment is sound-insulated and dark, it will increase the quality of sleep. Those who sleep in noisy environmental conditions have less Delta, less REM, more first and second stage sleep in their sleep. However, this does not mean that everyone walks on tiptoe at home.
The child can also fall asleep by maintaining the normal noise level in the house. Even sounds such as the soft voice of the mother coming from the kitchen and the father walking in front of the door can comfort your child. • Leaving your child, who refuses to sleep, in his/her bed crying, is definitely not a method of discipline and determination. At most, it is an attitude that can cause your child to experience insecurity. • Even if your child wakes up for any reason and comes to your bed, you can accompany him to his room, stay with him for a while without going to bed next to him, stroke his hair or tell him a story, instead of sending him to his bed by snarling. • Even though making it easier for the child to fall asleep with rhythmic movements, which is also common in our society, making it easier for the child to fall asleep, it will be harder for him to get the habit of sleeping in his own bed since you will have a child who has acquired this habit later on. • If your child is a baby before going to bed, he should be put to sleep after his diaper is cleaned and his stomach is fed. For older children, other environmental stimuli should also be suppressed, in addition to meeting their toilet and food needs. • Using sleep as a punishment method is also an attempt to disrupt sleep patterns. As with any behavior you want to teach your child, the habit of sleeping requires patience and attention. When you fail in a few attempts to go to bed, you should keep trying without giving up and show that you are determined. • If a child lying in his bed falls asleep while watching TV on the sofa, for whatever reason, his sleeping habits will be interrupted.