When your child sleeps well, he’s more settled, happy and ready for school the next day. Getting enough sleep strengthens his immune system and could reduce the risk of infection and illness.
Drugs aren’t usually the answer to solving children’s sleeping problems. There are better ways to deal with your child’s sleep difficulties.
Children aged 6-9 need 10-11 hours sleep a night. They’re usually tired after school and might look forward to bedtime from about 7.30 pm.
A bedtime routine is very important at this age. It helps your child wind down from the day. Keep the bedroom dark, cool and quiet so she can drift off easily.
A bedtime routine might look like this:
||Put on pyjamas, brush teeth, go to the toilet.
||Quiet time in the bedroom with a book and a bedtime story or quiet chat.
||Goodnight and lights out.
After a big day at school, many of the day’s events and worries might be still rattling around in your child’s head. If they’re still unresolved when your child goes to bed, it can cause a restless night or bad dreams. You can help your child settle and relax for sleep by promoting good sleep habits.
Many school-age children also sleeptalk, especially if they’re excited or worried about something like a holiday or a test. Sleeptalking is nothing to worry about. Talking with your child calmly about the event might help reduce night-time chatter.
Children can’t control bedwetting, and they almost always grow out of it. If your school-age child wets the bed, rest assured there are probably other children in your child’s class who do the same.
Percentage of children who wet the bed
|Four years old
||Five years old
||Six years old
||10 years old
||15 years old
Bedwetting happens when children don’t wake up when their bladders are full at night. Many children who wet the bed seem to sleep heavily and are harder to wake than other children. Many produce more wee at night than other children as a result of a low level of a specific urine hormone.
Reassure your child that bedwetting is normal, there’s nothing to be ashamed about, and that he’ll grow out of it in time. It can be very helpful for him to know if someone else in the family used to wet the bed.
To help your child feel better about bedwetting, explain in simple terms some of the reasons for bedwetting.
Check with your doctor if:
- your child is still wetting in the day by school age
- your child, who is normally dry, starts wetting again for more than two nights
- you’re becoming very upset by the bedwetting
- you have any other concerns about bedwetting.
Night terrors and nightmares
Night terrors are less common than nightmares and usually disappear by age six. Night terrors don’t harm your child, who is in a deep sleep and often remembers nothing about it in the morning. But they can be unnerving for parents!
Approximately 50% of five-year-old children will experience nightmares, and these nightmares are often scary enough to wake them up. As children get older, they’ll get better at understanding that a dream is just a dream. By the age of seven, your child might be able to deal with nightmares without calling you for comfort.
Many children grind their teeth in their sleep. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with your child, and it usually doesn’t cause damage.
How children sleep
Some children fall deeply asleep very quickly. Others sleep lightly, fidgeting and muttering for up to 20 minutes, before getting into deep sleep.
Your child’s sleep cycle lasts only about 40 minutes (in grown-ups, it’s 90 minutes). Each cycle is made up of light sleep and deep sleep, followed by brief waking.
For the first part of the night, about 80% of your child’s sleep is deep. Then, about halfway through a normal length of sleep, the sleep cycle flips. By morning, 80% is light sleep. This is the same as for grown-ups, explaining why it’s easier to be woken towards the end of your night’s sleep.