My toddler won’t sleep ― What’s wrong?

Learn how to handle junior’s nightmares and sleepwalking issues, so you can reclaim your sleep, stat!

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You hope devoutly that junior will now sleep like a log after you’ve dispensed with night feeds and even overcome bubba’s sleep regression. The reality check ― you’ll probably still face challenges getting your toddler to stay sleep through the night!

In fact, going through any major life changes may impact your mini-me’s sleep negatively. Needless to say, when your kiddo’s sleep is disrupted, yours is, too. Here’s how to manage your child’s…

1) Nightmares

WHAT It’s normal to have scary dreams, which could be causing your toddler’s a recurring sleep disruptions. It’s also why he scrambles over to sleep with you and your spouse in the middle of the night.

THE CAUSE Usually scary movies and shows or even violent news stories may trigger nightmares. Otherwise, your child might be unnerved by a major change he is experiencing at home — like a new sibling — or in school — like a bully or new school environment.

EXPERTS SAY You should make every effort to avoid or minimise your munchkin’s exposure to frightening stories, movies or shows, especially before bedtime. Thankfully, you can easily resolve these short and infrequent nightmares just by listening to him and offering reassurance as he falls back into a deep slumber. Gleneagles Hospital paediatrician Dr Jenny Tang advises, “If the child wants to talk about their nightmare, encourage them to come up with alternative endings that are happy or funny.” Asia Sleep Centre sleep specialist Dr Kenny Pang notes that talking to your child regularly about school and work helps him to relieve any emotional stress that he’s facing, thus reducing the likelihood of nightmares.

“If the child wants to talk about their nightmare, encourage them to come up with alternative endings that are happy or funny.”

2) Night terrors

WHAT During your child’s bout of night terror, you are woken up by sounds of your tyke’s frantic crying and screaming and upon rushing to his bedside, you see him seated in an upright position. And even though his eyes are wide open, he is actually still asleep; your questions are met with no response. There’s a look of agitation or panic on his face and his pyjamas is soaked with sweat. Rousing him while he’s still screaming, leaves him in a state of confusion and disorientation. And after a couple of minutes, your tyke falls back to sleep on his own. The next morning, he will have no memory of what has occurred last night. Children between 2 and 4 years of age are more likely to experience the condition, too.

Learn what could be causing your child’s night terrors and sleepwalking… Next!

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THE CAUSE While no one knows for sure what causes night terrors, family histories do play a part. Dr Tang and Dr Pang share known triggers, including:

* Not getting enough sleep or having an irregular sleep schedule.

* Certain types of medication.

* Sleeping with a full bladder.

* Sleeping in a different or noisy environment.

* Stress.

* Your tot has Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA), where the sufferer experiences repeated breathing problems like choking or stops breathing while asleep.

* He or she suffers from Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) or Restless leg syndrome — experiencing repetitive cramping or jerking of the legs during sleep.

EXPERTS SAY Dr Pang points out that night terrors tend to occur around the same time every night and waking your child up before it happens — bringing him to the toilet to pee — may prevent it from happening. Dr Tang says, however, that symptoms tend to decrease as the child grows older and rarely persists after puberty. While it may be distressing for a parent to see, night terrors won’t harm your child. However, she advises parents to remove any obstacles that may cause your child to trip or hurt himself. Notes Gleneagles Hospital psychiatrist Dr Lim Boon Leng, “Parents just have to wait patiently for the episode to go away. There is no need to wake the child up during night terrors as [it can] further disrupt their sleep cycle.”

Your child is 10 times more likely sleepwalk if anyone in your family has walked in his sleep before.

3) Sleepwalking

WHAT Your tyke might pop out of bed with his eyes wide open and roam around their room or the house as if he is awake. Dr Lim notes that it’s not uncommon for children who sleepwalk to talk or even urinate in the wrong spot. Ask your sleepwalking child a question and you’ll likely get no response. As with night terrors, your child will also not have any memory of his sleepwalking the following day and will wake up feeling well-rested.

THE CAUSE Dr Tang explains that sleepwalking results from an “arousal disorder” — something goes amiss when a person transitions from a deep sleep to a lighter sleep stage. “Between 15 and 40 per cent of children sleepwalk on at least one occasion ― and 3 to 4 per cent experience frequent episodes that occur weekly or monthly.” The good news ― sleepwalking decreases during your kiddo’s teenage years and is uncommon in adulthood. Your child is 10 times more likely sleepwalk if anyone in your family has walked in his sleep before. Other than the genetic link, its exact causes are unknown. However, both sleepwalking and night terrors have similar triggers.

EXPERTS SAY Dr Lim explains that there’s sleepwalking usually doesn’t require any treatment, as your kids will be fine so long as you keep them safe. So, be sure to install gates at staircases and remove any obstacles that may cause your child to take a tumble. Dr Tang advises parents to take these three easy precautions to ensure their kids’ safety:

* Make sure all doors and windows are safely secured and can open easily, if needed.

* Remove clutter or fragile furniture from the room.

* Maintain a regular sleep schedule, so as to avoid triggering an episode.

Photos: iStock

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