Does your child have trouble sleeping? A child psychiatrist offers some concrete solutions.
Sleeping problems, nighttime awakenings, nightmares. Does your child struggle with any of these? Child psychiatrist Lyliane Nemet-Pier, specialist in this field, offers some professional advice…
Cradling him in your arms, soft lighting to calm her down, bedtime stories, nothing works: your child doesn’t fall asleep. Or they sleep so little that you start the next day more tired than you finished it. There are many parents who, like you, are struggling with their children’s sleep problems. Before the age of 3, it is estimated that almost one out of every two children will be affected by some sort of problem with sleep. In her work Cet enfant qui ne dort pas [The child who doesn’t sleep], child psychiatrist Lyliane Nemet-Pier cross-references sociological, psychological and cultural explanations of this phenomenon and proposes concrete solutions for affected families.
Take time to decipher the child’s sleep disorder
Some disorders appear right from birth, others because of trauma or family events. In any case, it is necessary to dedicate time to deciphering this problem. Sleep is a language, and new parents have normally not yet mastered it. Especially when each child marches to a different tune.
There is no magic recipe and “each child will have their own path that needs to be analyzed. No one method exists that will put them all to sleep,” warns Nemet-Pier. However, some important points of reference allow us to identify the problem we are facing. It starts by understanding the rhythm and the needs of each child. Certainly, family rhythms and house conditions often lead to group-style behaviors. “At home, the rule is: everyone goes to bed at 8 p.m., lights out at 8:30. All three kids sleep in the same bedroom, I can’t put them to bed individually,” explains Armelle from France. However, if one of the children sleeps badly, it is essential to have an individualized perspective of their rhythm and to make special arrangements.
Bedtime is a reflection of the day’s emotions
Here, the solution probably lies in the aspect of planning. Sometimes, it is enough to introduce some kind of ritual that manages to calm the child down. Every problem has its solution: if it is a problem of rhythm, it may be appropriate to postpone bedtime to make it more effective. “Parents should respect the rhythms of sleep,” says Nemet-Pier, “They correspond to the right times to go to bed. Outside of these markers, falling asleep will be more difficult. Sometimes you have to agree to delay bedtime instead of fighting it on principle.”
One thing is certain: separation from parents is what is currently the most difficult time for families. “Because bedtime is when all the emotions of the day come out, it is essential to decipher what the young child wants to tell us at that moment.” If the mother entrusts her baby to a nanny or to the day care center in a state of emotional confusion and suffering, the child perceives it: “When the separation is experienced badly during the day, the child relives it at bedtime, and it is difficult for them to separate again,” concludes the expert. Therefore, it is necessary to understand our children’s day in order to better understand their night.