Thanks to scientifically proven guidelines and play we can tackle sleep disorders in children.
To deal with sleep disorders in children, without resorting to the use of drugs, very different solutions are recommended than those for us adults. This is because children's sleep is greatly influenced by the family and socio-cultural context, but above all by the habits of us parents. In recent years, psychological research has tested and developed various cognitive-behavioral techniques for treating children's insomnia, which have been formalized in protocols, or in standardized and scientifically proven guidelines and procedures.
A recent study introduced the official recommendations at European level for the treatment of insomnia, a large study that involved many experts at European level in which Dr. Liborio Parrino, Head of the Sleep Medicine Center of the 'University of Parma, interviewed in the' QUID + RISPONDE 'column. In particular, cognitive-behavioral therapy is considered as the first-line treatment for insomnia, placing in the background both the use of phytotherapy and herbs in general, such as the intake of melatonin or drugs. It is interesting to see how these interventions are essentially based on education for proper sleep hygiene, therefore a mix of behavioral and relaxation techniques.
Precisely on these principles is based the book Goodnight and sweet dreams of the QUID + series, published by Gribaudo, which helps to define strategies, habits and daily rituals that can be put into practice in the family before going to bed, to encourage falling asleep of children. In particular, the focus of the volume is on the ritual of the bedtime story and inside we will also find a beautiful illustrated story, created with techniques borrowed from the world of meditation, autogenic training and hypnosis, designed to guide the child through a deep state of calm and relaxation, the ideal prelude to sleep.
To explore the topic further, reference can be made to the protocols, developed by leading experts in sleep disorders such as Michael Perlis, Mark Aloia and Brett R. Kuhn, editors of the book Behavioral Treatments for Sleep Disorders, a founding volume for sleep specialists in adulthood as well as in developmental age and an important tool also available for pediatricians and those parents who want to know and deepen some useful strategies to prevent insomnia in children. Let's see some, for example, that can be easily replicated at home:
- Gradual extinction: it is effective for sleeping problems and nocturnal awakenings for children between 6 months and 5 years. It is important to give rules and habits (schedules and routines) and then gradually accompany the child to sleep independently: for example, in a first phase the parent stays for a while in the room sitting on the floor near the bed, then he stays in the room but a little further away, or he stays outside the door and then from time to time he returns to check how the child behaves.
- The exercise of apologizing: it is indicated to promote the ability to fall asleep autonomously and problems at bedtime. Before starting, it is important to instruct the child to sleep in the desired and usual environment and then temporarily postpone the time of bed: once put to bed the parent will have to say phrases like "sorry I have to go but then I'll come back to you"; the parent, however, does not leave the room, moves away only a little from the bed and then returns to him and says: "you were good and calm and quiet while I was not there, very good" (positive reinforcement); this pattern is repeated several times until he falls asleep; if the child gets out of bed, it is important to bring him back to bed with the utmost calm, avoiding any eye interaction and using phrases such as "go back to bed".
Together with the protocols, we can use some fun games to deal with children's sleep disorders, for example those related to fears, typically of the dark and monsters: effective for 4-10 year olds and, in addition to giving excellent results, it is fun and cheap. The principle on which they are based, technically called shaping, consists in the gradual increase of the time that the child spends in the dark. The child plays blindfolded in his bedroom and in the dark, he has to look for a hidden toy in increasingly difficult to reach places. This way the time spent in the dark will gradually increase. Once the game is found, the child receives positive reinforcement in the form of a hug or compliment.
We will therefore discover that adopting habits that are repeated regularly every night before going to bed is certainly one of the most effective strategies to help our child deal with sleep in serenity and safety.
Tag: Children Insomnia