Sleep is an important activity of the developing brain. It is essential to a positive mood, good attention, concentration, learning and cognitive development. In short, getting enough uninterrupted sleep is important to the mental and physical health of children, adolescents and parents alike.
While the amount of sleep needed changes during the course of development from infancy to adulthood, the need for uninterrupted, good quality sleep never changes. With the increasing pace of life in our modern, technological world, people of all ages are routinely getting less and poorer quality sleep, with many resulting emotional and physical health consequences.
Healthy sleep occurs in predictable stages and cycles that are largely determined by biology. However, things in the environment (e.g. noise, light, temperature, diet, daily schedules for meals and activities, travel, stress, unfamiliar surroundings) can disrupt sleep. Many types of physical problems (neurological, digestive or breathing problems, injury/pain, depression, anxiety) and certain types of medications also can disturb sleep.
While some sleep problems can be diagnosed and treated medically, many have environmental and behavioral causes and solutions. The most common types of sleep problems encountered in children and adolescents include:
•Difficulty falling asleep
•Difficulty waking up in the morning
•Frequent nighttime awakenings
•Night terrors (severe nightmares)
•Resisting going to bed
•Too much napping during the day
•Trouble going back to sleep after awakening
Treatments for environmentally and behaviorally based sleep problems require careful examination and record keeping of daily habits and routines related to bedtime, diet, meal and activity schedules, noise, stimulation and stress. Most treatments require making gradual but consistent changes in the routines and activities of daily living along with the use of basic, child behavior-management strategies.
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