Stop searching. The sleep experts are here.

As parents, we always want to make sure our little ones are sticking to a consistent sleeping schedule. The body’s internal clock plays a key role in regulating everyone’s sleep-wake cycle. Nicki from The Children's Sleep Charity is here to tell us how you can support your children if they are suffering from any sleeping issues.

How much sleep does a teenager need? 

Sleep needs are very individual so it is important to remember this and to recognise that it is not just about quantity of sleep, quality of the sleep is also key.  Teenagers will need on average around 9 hours of sleep per night with some needing more and others needing less. Look out for signs of tiredness during the day or difficulty waking in the morning to work out if they are having enough sleep. 

Should I let my teenager sleep in late? 

If a young person is struggling to achieve a good night’s sleep lie ins are best avoided.  A set wake up time each morning can help to strengthen their body clock making it easier to get up on time for school.  Staying in bed will disrupt the body clock meaning that they aren’t tired until later which will then have a knock on effect the next day. 

Should I let my teenager choose their own bed time? 

Young people need to be empowered with sleep knowledge so that they can understand the importance of getting a good night’s sleep.  It is important to support them in trying to work out how much sleep they need to be able to meet their full potential. Work with them too to identify what time they need to be wake in the morning.  Using this information you can encourage them to work out their own appropriate bed time. 

What size bed should I choose for my child? Is an adult size bed okay for a child? 

There are a number of things to think about when choosing a bed for your child.  You need to consider price, size and the space you have to house it in. Some beds have storage facilities built into them while others incorporate a pull out bed that can be ideal for sleepovers.  The Sleep Council has some great advice on their website for choosing beds www.sleepcouncil.org.uk 

 

The size of the bed depends on your child. Some children enjoy being in a large bed whereas others feel safer and more secure in a bed that is more enclosed such as a cabin style bed.  Involve your child in the purchase of the bed so that it meets their needs.

What firmness of mattress should I choose for my child? 

The right mattress is important to provide correct support for growing children.  Choose a reputable retailer who will ask about your child’s needs and help you to find the correct mattress. 

How do I stop my child sleepwalking? 

Sleepwalking is more common in children than it is in adults but the good news is that most will grow out of it.  There is no specific way of stopping a child from sleepwalking but it can help to get them into a good routine and ensure they have enough sleep.  It is important to keep children safe, if the sleepwalking is regular or you are concerned that the child is at risk of injury you should seek help from the GP. 

Why does my child have trouble falling asleep?

There can be lots of reasons why your child has trouble falling asleep.  Common reasons include:

  • Not being tired – sometimes our children’s body clocks get out of synch and they may not feel tired at bedtime
  • Diet – is what they are consuming sugar or caffeine fuelled?
  • Exercising too close to bedtime can wake us up
  • Screen activities can inhibit the production of melatonin the sleep hormone making it harder to nod off
  • Anxiety can make it difficult to fall asleep at night time.
  • Pain
  • Stimulating bedroom environment
  • They need a certain condition to be in place to sleep well such as a parent being with them or a lullaby show playing and this has been removed. 

And many more, Sleep Practitioners work with families to identify reasons so that they can then find the right strategies to put in place.

How do I know if my child has a sleeping disorder? 

A sleep disorder is a medical disorder of sleep patterns.  It can include things like obstructive sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome and sleep paralysis.  If you are concerned that your child may have a sleep disorder you should contact a health professional such as a GP, school nurse or health visitor for advice.  

Why does my child wake frequently in the night? 

There are many reasons why a child may wake frequently in the night.  The key is to try to identify what is waking them so you can then put appropriate strategies in place.  Keeping a sleep diary can help to identify any patterns around night time wakings.  

 

Common reasons that children wake in the night are:

 

  • Hunger
  • Thirst
  • Pain
  • Sleeping environment has changed – they fell asleep in the car and have woken to find they are in bed
  • Lighting conditions in the room have changed, they fell asleep with the landing light on and have awoke in complete darkness
  • They are too hot/cold
  • A parent was with them at the start of the night who then isn’t present when they wake in the night

How can I stop my child waking early? 

It is important that you have a clear idea around what time wake up time is.  You then need to be able to communicate this clearly to your child. Older children may benefit from having a clock in their room to check, for younger children you may wish to use a lamp on a timer switch and teach them that when the light is off it is sleep time. 

 

You may need to adjust their bedtime if you feel that they are going to sleep too early which is why they are ready to start the day early.  You should also consider whether they are waking because they are hungry and whether adding in a suppertime snack could help. In the summer months children often wake up early because sunlight is creeping into the room and disturbing them.

What's the ideal temperature for my child's bedroom? What can I do if they feel too hot or too cold? 

The ideal temperature is around 18 degrees.  If you check their temperature and think they are too hot or cold you should look at ways to manage their temperature.  This may include changing the bedding, considering opening windows leading up to bedtime in the summer when temperatures have dropped and reviewing their nightwear.   For infants always follow the safe sleeping advice, Lullaby Trust offer excellent information on their website. 

Why is my child having nightmares? 

Nightmares are common in children sometimes they may be caused by frightening experiences or worries.  Give them lots of reassurance if they do have a nightmare as they can be very upsetting. See if you can identify any trigger for their nightmares.  If you are concerned by the frequency of the nightmares then speak to your GP for advice. 

Is it okay for my child to sleep with the light on? 

Some children prefer to have some light in the room to sleep well.  If a child can sleep with a nightlight on and it is safe to leave it on then it may provide them with the reassurance that they need.  A dim glowing light is best so as to not to interfere with the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin which can be suppressed by brighter lights.

What tog of duvet is ideal for a young child / teenager? 

The tog rating of duvets refers to the thermal insulation that they give.  The higher the rating the warmer the duvet. During the summer months you may prefer to use a duvet between 2.5 and 7 tog and in the winter months you may prefer to use one that is 10.5 tog.  Duvets are not suitable for babies under 12 months.  

How can I stop my child wetting the bed? 

Nocturnal enuresis is the term used for bedwetting and it affects around 500,000 children and young people across the country.  Treatment is now available from the age of 5, the charity Eric provide detailed information about how to treat bedwetting on their website www.eric.org.uk 

How many pillows should my child have? 

A good pillow will support your child’s head so that it is aligned with their body.  If a pillow is too soft the head will flop and the neck can curve, a pillow that is too hard will mean that their neck is in too much of an upright position.  It is a matter of personal preference but one pillow should be enough to provide adequate support.  

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