35 – 40% of children and adolescents experience some form of sleep problem during their development. Sleep problems are either those that:
Are intrinsic (come from the inside) and include nightmares, night terrors, bed wetting and snoring or those that.
Are extrinsic (come from the outside) such as bedtime reluctance, anxiety related insomnia, inability to fall asleep alone or environmental and social problems that get in the way of sleep.
What happens when we don’t get enough sleep?
Many things can be affected when we do not sleep enough such as:
Behaviour – aggressive, antisocial, withdrawn, hyperactive, unable to control or regulate behaviour
Emotion – Moody, depressed, anxious, stressed, uneasy, unconfident, irritable
Planning – poorly organised, poor time managers, repeating grades, forgets lessons
Concentration – inattentive, lack of concentration, falling behind in school
Creativity – not working at full potential
Problem solving – poor behaviour control and difficulty in social situations
Complicated thinking – struggles with maths, sciences, languages, abstract concepts
Motor coordination – less sporty, more accidents, clumsier
Weight – being obese and overweight is more likely with less sleep
Health – poorer immune system – sicker more often
Learning – it is though that sleep, particularly dream sleep or REM sleep, is necessary for storing certain types of memory, particularly more difficult memories such as mathematical concepts and language.
How we sleep
There are two main kinds of sleep. One is light sleep called REM sleep ( for Rapid Eye Movement Sleep). This is when we dream and when we “go over” the day’s events and wake feeling refreshed. It is also the kind of sleep where we wake more easily because it is so close to ‘awake’. Toddlers have more REM sleep than adults do.
The other kind is deep sleep (or NonREM sleep) where growing and healing takes place. It is the deepest sleep. This is when children may have night terrors. It is much harder to waken people from this kind of sleep.
Each night we all go through sleep patterns where we go from lighter sleep to deep sleep then lighter again as shown in the diagram. Toddlers usually take about an hour for each sleep pattern or cycle.
How much sleep do toddlers need?
Younger toddlers usually need somewhere between 12-14 hours over the 24 hour period, spread between day and night time sleep.
Older toddlers usually need a little less, somewhere between 10-13 hours a night. By five, most of them have given up their day sleep.
The reason that there is not a specific and precise numbers of sleep need is because children’s sleep needs are individual and can vary a lot from the average pattern.
If you want to check roughly how much sleep your own child needs, keep a sleep chart for a few days. Write down exactly how long your child sleeps. Whatever average amount you come to is probably about how much sleep your child needs. Remember that as you child grows, their sleep time will get shorter.