Dealing with children's sleep problems

Published On: Feb 02 2012 03:35:42 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 02 2012 03:40:14 PM EST

Sweet dreams or bedtime battle?

If getting your children to bed is a struggle, you’re not alone.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, up to 70 percent of children under 10 years old experience sleep problems at some point.

Experts say the key is dealing with those problems before they persist and creep into other areas of life.

Pediatric sleep specialist Dr. Jyoti Krishna of the Cleveland Clinic says one of the common problems parents deal with at bedtime is what is called “limit setting sleep disorder.”

“Put simplicity, it means little Joey doesn’t want to go to bed when mom wants him to go to bed. This could be simply a timing issue that Joey’s clock is set for a later time than what mom expects,” Krishna said.

He offers this solution, which might surprise parents.

He says if your child does not want to go to bed at 8 p.m., let him stay up until 9 p.m. or 9:30 p.m.

Krishna says there will be less resistance because your child will actually be sleepy.

Once the bedtime battle subsides, start sliding the bedtime back 15 minutes, every two or three days and offer rewards or positive reinforcement to make the transition easier.

Experts say another common problem parents unwittingly create is called “sleep association disorder.”

This means children learn to sleep with mom or dad reading them a story or scratching their back or just paying in bed with them. Children might wake up in the middle of the night and seek out mom and dad again. When this happens, children will migrate from their own bedroom to their parents’ bedroom.

To break children of this habit, Krishna suggests sitting beside the bed, then slowly move the chair a few feet away until you can distance yourself totally from your child’s bed.

If your child has a sleep problem now, it could get worse as they age. Studies suggest sleep issues change as a child ages. So, if your child is having trouble sleeping, bring up the issues to a pediatrician.