A BBC report, published online in March 2017, has commented on the increasing number of children with sleep difficulties in the UK. According to the report, doctors currently write ten times more prescriptions for the most common sleep medication – melatonin – than they did ten years ago. In this same time period, there has also been a dramatic increase in hospital attendances for children suffering from sleep disorders.
Research has linked sleep difficulties in children with a range of medical and developmental issues, including enhanced risk of obesity, reduced immunity against common infections, and difficulties with emotional regulation and performance in school. In turn, the well-being of the child’s entire family is also likely to be affected, from siblings kept awake in shared bedrooms, to parents dealing with the stress of difficult bedtime habits and tired morning routines. It is also known that children diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders, such as ADHD or ASD, are at least two to three times more likely to experience sleep difficulties than so-called “neurotypical” children.
However, while the consequences of persistent sleep difficulties can be significant, the BBC’s report cites findings that up to 92% of families using specialist sleep clinics, such as those at The Children’s Sleep Charity, are able to resolve their child’s difficulties through a change of bedtime routine. General guidelines would include minimising use of smartphones, tablets or laptops in the hour before bedtime, reducing consumption of sugar or caffeine in the evenings, and encouraging intake of foods, such as bananas and cherries, which are known to be good natural sources of melatonin.
If you are concerned that your child may be suffering from developmental or mental health difficulties associated with a lack of sleep, please feel free to contact Psicon on firstname.lastname@example.org.