HÀ NỘI — It's not just busy adults that struggle to shut their brains off at night, but many children also find it hard to escape to the land of nod.
Children and adolescents need at least eight to 10 hours of sleep per night and a lack of proper sleep may lead to bad performance at school, slow physical growth and even traffic accidents, according to doctors.
An 11-year-old girl was recently sent to HCM City Hospital of Paediatrics over her sleep problems, Tuổi trẻ (Youth) newspaper reports.
As she was unable to sleep at night, the cheerful child had become irritable and even when being examined she would drift off then wake back up.
At first, the doctor suspected she had encephalitis, yet the electroencephalography showed normal results.
After observing her nose twitching, the doctor investigated her throat and discovered two enlarged tonsils which stopped the girl from breathing properly and deeply sleeping.
She was then transferred to the department of eye, nose, and throat. After having her tonsils taken out, she could sleep at night.
According to Nguyễn Kiến Minh, deputy head of the neurology department under the National Hospital of Paediatrics, there are many reasons for sleep disorders in children.
Obese children can suffer from sleep problems as obesity causes hypertrophy of airway muscles, making it difficult to swallow and sleep.
Obese kids can also have symptoms such as neck overarching, sleep sitting-up, night sweats, enuresis and headaches in the morning.
Losing weight will help them reduce airway obstruction when sleeping.
Parasomnias – all the abnormal behaviours that happen to people when they sleep, including sleepwalking and nightmares – can occur to many children.
To reduce negative impacts of the disorders, parents are recommended to keep track of their children’s sleep to know when these phenomena happen to wake them up in 15 minutes then let them fall back to sleep.
Repeating the therapy for a week will help ease these symptoms. However, they may relapse when the children are stressed or tired.
Digital age problems
Many adolescents can only sleep after 1 am.
Explaining the delayed sleep phase disorder, Minh said a person’s sleep cycle was 24 hours, following the day and night rhythm. Light helps regulate whether we feel sleepy or awake, while melatonin helps us sleep at night.
The human body only releases melatonin after sunset, so parents should keep smartphones, TVs and tablets away from children one to two hours before bedtime.
In case these symptoms don't improve, they will need a consultation to receive melatonin supplements to adjust their sleep habits.
Parents have also been told to let their children be exposed to light whenever they wake up to boost melatonin stimulation.
A hypnic jerk is another sleep disorder that many children suffer from.
The disorder's brief and sudden involuntary contraction of muscles when a child starts falling to sleep make them exhausted and sleepy at day.
These children are usually suffering from an iron deficit.
In this case, parents should prevent children from intensive physical activity two to three hours before bedtime and not allow them to eat right before going to bed, especially fast food and drinks that contain stimulants.
Sleep disorders in children can place tremendous burdens on parents. Therefore, it is recommended to break children’s bad habits – bedtime procrastination – by not giving in to their demands. By closing doors, drawing curtains, turning off lights and keeping the bedroom quiet, parents will help children fall asleep easier.
Whenever any abnormal sleep-related symptom is seen, parents should consult doctors for diagnosis.
Good sleep at night is important to children’s development, helping them recover their memories and grow. — VNS