Infants have a tendency to sleep a lot and not ask for meals during the first few months. During the first few years, the child’s sleep may be irregular and difficult. In these cases, talk to your physician about it. If the child has trouble falling asleep, the same ritual can be performed every evening. If the child experiences uneasy sleep, it is worth trying to put him/her to bed with another child in the room. Like this, the reassuring presence of another should help the child to feel secure and sleep better. If he/she has difficulties falling asleep, music can be soothing.
Because children tend to shake off the bedclothes, it’s a good idea to initially replace bedclothes with a baby snuggler, overall pyjamas or a fleece.
For children who experience difficulty waking up (irritable, stiffness, etc.), helping them to do little stretching movements can help (left leg, right leg, left arm, right arm, etc.).
To help them become aware of night and day, get into the habit of dressing the child in the day and putting on its pyjamas not too long before going to bed.
Uneasy sleep is frequent:
- In young children for several reasons such as pains caused by unnoticed earache or gastroesophageal reflux. Eardrums should be checked by a physician and an oesophagus and stomach endoscopy may be contemplated if the disorder persists. Another reason may be obstruction of the upper respiratory tract leading to poor blood oxygenation: oversize tonsils, large adenoids, narrow nasal cavities, etc. An ENT specialist should be consulted for an opinion.
- At adolescence, a teenager’s questions about the future and the limits Down syndrome imposes on it can cause considerable anguish and impact sleep. The young person’s usual psychologists should be consulted and the opinion of a psychiatrist should also be obtained without hesitating.
- In adults or the elderly, sleep disorders are, for instance, due to night apnoea. These breathing problems during sleep are frequent. The problem may either be obstructive apnoea (obstruction of the upper respiratory tract) or neurological apnoea (defective respiratory control in the brain). An opinion from an ENT and a neurologist is therefore useful.
Sleep disorders can also be due to digestive pain like inflammation of the oesophagus, the consequences of gastroesophageal reflux or gastritis (inflammation of the stomach). A gastro-oesophageal endoscopy should then be contemplated.
Psychological disorders may include the possibility of a serious state of anxiety, which must be reported to a psychologist or psychiatrist; depression (often the case): referring to a psychiatrist is often positive for the person; epilepsy, since this can mimic sleep disorders: an EEG will confirm the diagnosis if the person accepts to undergo the examination. If epilepsy is confirmed, the physician should prescribe an anti-epilepsy drug.
We could also mention the use of some psychotropic drugs. In fact, most medicines that act on the brain can, in some patients, have the opposite effect to the one intended. For instance, a tranquiliser can cause excitation or insomnia. Plus, for sleep apnoea, sedatives aggravate the condition and therefore increase the sleep disorder.