Sleep problems in children, interview with Prof Michael Gradisar

by | May 10, 2022

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Sleep is important for a child’s physical growth and cognitive development. However, around 25-50% of young children suffer from some kind of sleep problem [1]. Bad sleep has an impact on the child’s development and daily life, but can also influence the sleep and stress levels of the parents.

Michael Gradisar is a clinical psychologist, sleep researcher, and Head of Sleep Science at Sleep Cycle AB. He specializes in sleep problems in children and young adults.

“I fell in love with the whole concept of sleep, because it’s something that we all do and can relate to.”

 

How did you become a sleep researcher?

“My goal was to become a clinical psychologist, and I had the opportunity to work at an insomnia clinic for children. I realized that there was not much research on sleep in children yet, so that fascinated me. I could build treatments, and test it in clinical practice. It’s great to do research that’s interesting, but also helps people at the same time.”

 

What sleep problems occur in children?

“Children can get really anxious at night which prevents them from falling asleep. They believe that once they go to sleep, they can be attacked or taken away. Worrying about a threat of someone breaking in, makes them very alert to their surroundings at night.”

“Children can get really anxious at night which prevents them from falling asleep”

 

How does this impact their parents?

“Children can experience separation anxiety from their parents at night. Some children sleep in their parents’ bed or next to them on a mattress and others need their parents to be with them until they fall asleep. Parents are likely to think: “How can I get my bedroom back? My child is way too old to sleep next to us.” 

“Children can experience separation anxiety from their parents at night”

 

How do you treat insomnia in children?

“The treatment of insomnia in children is similar to the treatment in adults, but we focus more on treating separation anxiety and building up sleepiness during the day. If a child feels more sleepy at night, after a while we see that children don’t care about burglars anymore, and just want to go to sleep. We also do relaxation training, which is part of cognitive behavior therapy for insomnia.”

 

How can breathing with Somnox help?

“Children can follow the breathing rhythm which helps them calm down and prepare for bed. Instead of worrying about a burglar coming in that’s going to harm them, they just focus on their breath. Somnox can also provide children with a sense of security, similar to sleeping with a pet in bed. Children refocus their attention away from potential fears to the Somnox Breathe and Sleep Robot.”

“Somnox can provide children a sense of security, similar to sleeping with a pet”

“Children refocus their attention away from potential fears to the Somnox Breathe and Sleep Robot”

 

What’s the advantage of Somnox over a teddy bear?

“There is a difference between a teddy bear and a Somox Breathe and Sleep Robot. If a child doesn’t have his or her teddy, he or she cannot fall asleep. Somnox can teach a child how to deal with a bad night by breathing exercises. So even if a child doesn’t have Somnox, they can use slow breathing to calm down.”

“Somnox can teach a child how to deal with a bad night by breathing exercises”

How can parents help their children with their sleep?

“It’s important for parents to understand that their child is anxious. Rather than telling them that no one is coming into their bedroom, it’s better to use questions and logic. With practice, the child can come to the conclusion himself or herself that nothing is going to happen.”

 

How much sleep do children need?

Michael: “Children need just enough sleep to function and feel okay the next day. Parents should realize that all kids are different, so they need to experiment and see what bedtime works best for their child.”

 

Overall, what’s your best sleep tip?

Sleep loves structure. Having structure in your life, for example, having regularity in your bed times, what you do leading up to bedtime and what you do when you wake up in the morning, is the best thing for good sleep.

“Having structure in your life is the best thing for good sleep”

 

For anyone looking to improve their sleep, Somnox 2 is your science-backed sleep companion that guides you towards slow-paced breathing that helps you fall asleep faster, worry less and wake up rested. 70% of our users improved their sleep quality within 4 weeks. Interested? Sign up for early access.

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