When it comes to babies and children, each child is completely unique in terms of sleep issues and challenges. Author Elizabeth Pantley reminds parents that they are the people who define what a sleep issue is for their particular situation and family. If sleeping habits and patterns are working for your family, then you do not need to feel pressured to make a change regardless of what others believe would be better for you or your children. This is an important thing to remember, because although experts and others can give their opinions, if something is working for you and your family, then there is generally no need to implement changes.
One common sleep challenge that many parents will deal with is night terrors. According to sleep expert Kim West, night terrors are distinctive from nightmares. Night terrors generally occur within the first two hours of sleep. During a night terror, children are not actually awake. They are transitioning from non-REM to REM sleep, and begin to experience a night terror. These can be scary for parents because the child is not awake and is therefore unresponsive and inconsolable. Night terrors generally last from 5-20 minutes and the best thing parents can do is to stand by and make sure the child is safe, but allow the terror to pass. One of the best ways to prevent night terrors is to put the child to bed earlier. West says that a bedtime of even 30 minutes earlier than normal can help prevent night terrors, because sleep deprivation plays a huge role in occurrence.
Another common challenge is children who want to sleep with parents rather than in their own bed. Elizabeth Pantley reminds parents that up to 40% of young children end up in their parent’s bed during the night- so this is a very common occurrence and is not at all alarming. Pantley says that if everyone in the bed is sleeping well, then there is not necessarily a need to make a change. If parents do want to change the habit, then it is important not to send mixed signals to the child. You can lead the child back to their bed every single time they try to come to your bed, but it is important to be consistent so the child understands that they will experience the same outcome each time they leave their bed during the night.