A report released by “Consumer Reports” indicates that 20 percent of all children under the age of five experience some sleep problems. Baby sleep problems are particularly troublesome to parents when they interrupt normal life. A tired baby is a cranky and frustrating baby. However, before you can address the problem, it is important to understand the types of sleep problems that may be affecting your baby.
Sleep Onset Associations
According to the University of Michigan Health System, sleep onset associations are the most common baby sleep problem. This occurs when a baby wakes in the middle of the night and cannot fall back to sleep. The child cannot sleep because he strongly associates an item or action with falling asleep. This can be a pacifier, a song or the rhythm of being rocked. A baby is unable to self-soothe and does not fall asleep without the needed item or action.
Parasomnia encompasses any disruptive sleep problems. Parasomnia is a rarely normal occurrence in a baby, but includes nightmares, teeth grinding and unintentional movements or twitches that cause waking. Typically these issues are nothing to worry about. However, parasomnia does occasionally make it difficult for a baby to get a good night’s rest.
From a surprisingly young age, babies often begin to fight sleep with fervor. To avoid sleep, a baby may throw a fit, play all night in his room or simply stall by refusing to carry out his bedtime routine. While settling problems are more annoying for parents than harmful to a baby, they can become a habit. If allowed to persist into childhood, these settling problems can result in sleep deprivation once a child must wake at a certain hour each morning and cannot get a nap.
Many babies experience a varying degree of separation anxiety. The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh reports that babies with separation anxiety will fuss and cry when apart from their parents. Children with separation anxieties are also more reserved near strangers and tend to cling onto their parents in public. This typically begins as young as six-months-old and can continue through the toddler years. Occasionally, a baby’s separation anxiety is so severe that it can actually prevent her from sleeping without a parent nearby.
Night waking can be one of the more serious baby sleep problems. While it is entirely normal for a baby to wake occasionally during the night, the problem comes when a baby is waking so frequently that he cannot fall into a deep, restful sleep. Ultimately, he will become sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation can result in a compromised immune system as well as extremes in behavior from hyper to fussy and limited mental function.