Most people struggle with falling or staying asleep at some point in their lives. Many factors can contribute to short-term sleeping difficulties, with stress being the most common. Typically these types of normal disturbances in sleep will not persist and a return to a normal sleep cycle occurs without the need for any form of intervention. However, sometimes difficulty falling or staying asleep will persist and can turn into a chronic problem that we call insomnia. When that happens, it can be disruptive to the individual’s life in a number of ways. With children and adolescents, sleep issues can be particularly problematic and getting them under control can be challenging. But when a child or adolescent is not getting enough sleep, they are susceptible to a number of difficulties, including:
- Mood disturbance
- Accidents and injuries
- Concentration difficulties
- Poor memory
- Slowed reaction times
A psychologist can help you develop routines and techniques for improving sleep. Developing better sleep hygiene is an important step in managing sleep disturbance. Sleep hygiene includes:
- Consistent sleeping and waking times, including weekends
- A consistent, relaxing bedtime routine
- Elimination of all stimulating activities (TV, video games, exercise) at least 30 minutes before bed
- No caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime
- A quiet sleeping environment (many children and especially adolescents say they prefer to go to sleep with music; this is stimulating and is generally not recommended)
- Using bed for sleeping only. This means not lying in bed while playing video games, watching TV, doing homework, etc.
Implementation of these and other techniques can be effective at combatting the challenges of insomnia. Other sleep disorders that can be addressed by a psychologist include bedwetting, nightmares, and night terrors.