If the baby often fails to settle down in the evening, wakes up several times during the night and only falls back asleep with the help of the parents, sleep problems can quickly put a strain on the whole family.
When do we talk about sleep problems in babies??
To begin with, it’s natural for babies to still need to adjust their sleep-wake rhythm to the day-night cycle during the first few months of life. If, however, no rhythm is established, the baby often cannot be calmed down and often has difficulty falling asleep, wakes up noticeably often and cries or screams, we are talking about sleep problems. Parents should of course seek medical advice and help at any time during the first months of life if they are worried about their child’s sleep behavior or if the strain on them becomes too great.
Where do sleep problems come from?
The causes of sleep problems in infancy and toddlerhood can be manifold. Sometimes the problems are of a physical origin (e.g. B. Immaturity in premature babies), perhaps an organic disease is present. Sometimes it is a matter of psychological stress. Sometimes environmental factors (noise, light, smoke) also play a role. Certain disabilities can also be associated with sleep problems. However, all these causes are relatively rare. In most cases, persistent sleep problems are the result of unfavorable sleep habits.
Sleep problems in the first year of life often do not come alone
Babies who have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep often have problems in other areas as well. Especially in the first months of life, sleep problems are often accompanied by excessive crying; in some cases, feeding difficulties also occur. Experts sometimes speak of so-called "regulation disorders". This is due to the infant’s particular difficulties in regulating his behavior appropriately for his age, for example, in settling down again from a state of agitation with the help of his parents. Such difficulties should always be considered together and, if necessary, treated together.
There are also a number of possible causes for this. It is often difficult for parents and children to get to know each other. For example, a child may have a temperamental tendency to be restless and difficult to calm down. Parental attempts to calm the child down are often unsuccessful. These children are very demanding for parents and require a particularly high level of empathy.
On the other hand, some parents also find it difficult to perceive the signals of their child, to interpret them correctly and to deal with them appropriately. Such "misunderstandings" can all too easily lead to a vicious circle. The sooner professional help is sought in such cases, the better it can be avoided that the coexistence of parents and child is permanently impeded.
Mastering sleep problems with professional help
In the case of serious and persistent sleep problems, you should always consult your pediatrician to make sure that there are no chronic or acute illnesses behind them. He or she can also determine whether a sleep disorder is present in the case of certain sleep problems. But they are also the right people to talk to if problems with falling asleep and sleeping through the night are putting a lot of stress on you and your child, or if they are interfering with everyday family life. If necessary, they can refer you to suitable counseling centers and therapy facilities.
With professional support and often just a few (behavioral) changes, parents can make it easier to deal with and get to know the child and get the problems under control. Important aspects with regard to sleep problems are here:
- Information about sleep development and sleep habits of children (if necessary. with the help of a sleep diary),
- If necessary, education about the special features of sleep disorders in children with disabilities,
- Structuring the daily routine,
- Timely recognition of tiredness in the child,
- Development of an individual sleep ritual,
- If necessary, establishing rules for falling asleep and staying asleep, and
- Implementing these rules both when falling asleep in the evening and when going back to sleep at night.
In the meantime, there are also so-called early aids in all communities. This also includes family midwives, who can support you with special stresses in the first year of life. Information on this can usually be obtained from the local youth or health office. (As of 21.6.2019)
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