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What causes sleep anxiety in children?

During these uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest with racial issues, children may exhibit sleep anxiety. Sufficient sleep is important for children's well-being. Researchers have found that adequate sleep for children helps to improve their attention span, decrease disruptive behavior, and increase memory and learning. Sufficient sleep also decreases child obesity, regulates blood pressure, and increases children's overall mood. As a side note, these benefits are also seen in adults as well. Children who do not have adequate sleep may appear to be more irritable, impulsive, and less attentive.

First and foremost - limit children's exposure to social media. There is a lot of unsettling information that is broadcast daily and could be very disturbing for children. They may not be able to process the information and it can become overwhelming causing fear, anxiety, and stress.

When you notice changes in your children's behavior, being evaluating their sleep patterns by setting healthy routines.

1) Limit screen time. While watching television and playing video games keep children quiet and allow adults time to do other tasks, screen time increases brain activity. Unplugging the television or taking away electronic devices at least 2 hours before bedtime allows the brain time to wind down and can significantly increase your child's sleep time. Try having children to read a book or doing calming activities to help them to fall asleep.

2) Limit caffeine and sweets, especially 2-3 hours before bedtime. Enough said there.

3) Increase exercise and outdoor activities to help children burn off excess energy so they will be ready to sleep at bedtime.

4) Believe it or not, taking a warm bath helps to increase melatonin that will help the child to rest better at night. The warm water increases the body temperature and after the bath, the body cools down which triggers the melatonin to produce.

5) If your child takes a nap during the day, schedule the nap early in the afternoon.

How much sleep is necessary for children? Good question. Sleep time varies with children's age. As the child ages, his/her need for sleep decreases.

Toddlers may need up to 13 hours of sleep

Pre-schoolers 3 - 5 years may need 10 - 12 hours

Primary school-aged children 5 - 10 years may need 10 - 12 hours

Teens may need 9 - 11 hours

While these are suggested times, your child may function differently. If your child takes medication and you notice your child experiencing bedwetting, having nightmares, or sleepwalking, see your family doctor.

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