Sleep problems are some of the most common challenges parents face when it comes to baby care. Anyone who’s been there knows firsthand there’s nothing worse than a tired, cranky baby as a result.
That’s why experts tout myriad sleep-training strategies that promise restful nights, from Dr. Ferber’s cry-it-out method to Dr. Sears’ no-tears method to the Baby Whisperer’s in-between strategy.
But before you can address the problem, it’s important to understand some behavioral sleep disorders that may be troubling your little one at night. Once you find the root cause, you can talk to your pediatrician to determine the best strategy for you and your baby to overcome nighttime challenges.
“The good news is most sleep disorders can be overcome with parental intervention,” said Dr. Mark Evans, a pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics in Brecksville. “For each family, the truth lies somewhere in the middle of comforting your baby, while also teaching him to self-soothe. There’s no one-strategy-fits-all.”
Dr. Evans discusses 5 common sleep disorders that may be affecting your baby and preventing good mornings.
Parasomnias are disruptive sleep-related problems, such as night terrors, teeth grinding and unintentional movements or twitches that cause baby to wake. Typically, they’re nothing to worry about and go away with age. However, parasomnias can make it difficult for a baby to get a good night’s rest in the meantime.
Sleep-onset associations occur when a baby wakes in the middle of the night and cannot fall back asleep because he associates an action or item with falling asleep. Things like being rocked to sleep, fed or sucking a pacifier must be present for the baby to settle back to sleep because he’s unable to self-soothe.
Your baby may feel anxious if you’re not there and, therefore, is unable to relax and sleep. Separation anxiety typically begins around 6 months of age and can continue through the toddler years. Sometimes separation anxiety can become so severe that babies have difficulty sleeping without a parent nearby.
Settling problems are present when your baby stalls or even refuses to go to sleep. To avoid going to sleep, babies may throw a fit or play in their crib. They’re usually more annoying to parents than harmful to baby, but these settling problems can become a habit if they’re allowed to persist.
While it’s normal for a baby to wake occasionally at night, it can become a serious problem if your baby is waking so frequently that he doesn’t fall into a deep, restful sleep. It will eventually result in sleep deprivation.
“Sleep can be such a control issue with babies,” said Dr. Evans. “Teaching your baby to self-soothe is a vital skill that can help overcome many sleep disorders and get him back to sleep without parental intervention.”