The mystery of sleep: We desperately try to avoid it as kids, but as we age, enter the workforce -- and for many -- become working parents, we wish for peaceful, uninterrupted nights of rest.
As the years go on, we begin to crave sleep more. We are established in our careers and less likely be socializing until four in the morning (like our young adult lifestyle). We no longer negotiate for "5 more minutes" like we did as kids but rather think, "Can I please go to sleep now?" But just as life would have us believing we are in the clear, another change in our sleep patterns occurs: We become parents.
It's understandable: Your adorable, little bundle of joy becomes your entire world. They may wake you up at any hour of the night with no regard for a consistent sleep schedule and you are happy to oblige. But you still need to try to get proper sleep, and your children do too, so that the whole family stays healthy.
Sweet Dreamzzz, Inc. Executive Director Nancy Maxwell's sleeping patterns changed when she became a parent and her experience with one of her daughters having sleep apnea inspired her to share her story with others at Sweet Dreamzzz.
"We didn't anticipate one of our daughters having sleep issues," she said. "She woke up nightly, realized she was alone in the dark and wanted to climb in our bed. We thought it was because she was scared. We got used to it and dealt with the routine."
"She also shared a bedroom with her younger sister, who complained that she, too, could not sleep because of the snoring from the older one. We had ear plugs made for the younger one, and assumed the problem was fixed. Lack of sleep ran rampant and we became accustomed to the pattern. We were not yet educated on the miracle of sleep."
But her daughter's sleep issues were not just affecting nighttime; they were affecting her throughout the day too.
"Our sleep-deprived daughter started to struggle in school, working incredibly hard to just keep up with her classmates," Maxwell said. "We gave her as much extra support as possible. Her focus was all on school, with little time for extra fun. She continued to wake up in the middle of the night, which concerned us, but we thought it was more a result of her character and nighttime fears than a medical concern."
Nancy recalls sitting in a Sweet Dreamzzz work meeting with Dr. Ron Chervin, Director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Michigan, when it hit her. Her daughter had Sleep Apnea -- a sleep disorder characterized by snoring, obstructed breathing and jolting awake in the middle of the night in order to breathe.
Once Nancy and her family realized the root of the issue, they sought help to get it fixed -- and it positively impacted the entire family.
"After having tonsils and adenoids removed, she slept through the night -- and every night since. Her learning improved. She grew two inches in a year. She finished high school with honors. She went to college," Maxwell said.
"The incredible part of all of this -- the only change was sleep. We were beginning to understand this simple miracle, and how underrated sleep really was."
Most parents don't realize that symptoms such as snoring or consistently waking up in the night could be a sign of a more serious medical condition. Preschool is the peak time for sleep issues and these are things you should be on the lookout for:
● Night Terrors
● Restless Leg Syndrome
● Sleep Apnea
These sleep issues are often caused by sleep deprivation, inconsistent sleep schedule, sleeping in a new environment, discomfort and/or stress.
Nancy and the Sweet Dreamzzz team have tips that will help you and your child sleep better. Hopefully this will help you get that good night's sleep you've been craving. The simple solution of sleep is possible with parenthood!
Our Sweet Dreamzzz sleep tips for healthy sleep for children:
● Humans need different amounts of sleep based on their age. According to the National Sleep Foundation, newborns need 14-17 hours of sleep every day, infants need 12-15 hours, toddlers need 11-14 and preschoolers need 10-13. Elementary-age children need 9-11 hours of sleep every night, teenagers need 8-10 and adults need 7-9.
● Make sure children relax before bed by reading a book, coloring, journaling, completing a puzzle or craft or listening to calming music. Children should not be exposed to excess light stimulation from the TV, computer, tablet or cell phones within an hour of bedtime and should not run around and play too close to sleep either.
● It's hard for children (or any of us) to fall sleep on a full stomach. Make sure your kids eat a light, healthy snack before bed like cheese and crackers, a fruit smoothie, apples and peanut butter or cereal, rather than a greasy, sugary, filling snack.
● Try to get to sleep and wake up within an hour of the same time every day, including weekends. This routine may be hard to get the hang of at first, but a consistent sleep schedule leads to a much healthier lifestyle!
● If your child is experiencing stress and fear from being in a dark or new sleeping environment, try a nightlight (not too bright) or a stuffed animal for comfort and security.
If your child is getting the right amount of sleep for their age, on a regular sleeping pattern, following a good bedtime routine, and they are still experiencing problems sleeping, speak to their physician.