Sleep, a requirement for a healthy lifestyle, is elusive after giving birth, just when moms need it the most. But that's hard to do when your newborns have a sleep pattern yet.
“Babies would wake up and sleep any time the want. Their sleep pattern becomes more scheduled when they reach six months,” said sleep specialist Dr. Keith Aguilera, head of the Comprehensive Sleep Disorder at St. Luke's Hospital, during last month’s World Sleep Day celebration by Uratex.
We asked Dr. Aguilera about parents’ concerns about their child’s sleep and sought his expert advice.
1. Is co-sleeping a safe practice for parents and babies? “It’s in our culture, so in our country, it's acceptable,” Dr. Aguilera said. "Then, again it does interrupt your sleep.” Even if kids start sleeping through the night, they usually toss and turn. That's when you need to introduce “basic sleep hygiene,” which means introducing your child to a bedtime routine.
The good news? “Children are easy to teach. Basta maayos mo yung kanilang sleep time, they automatically sleep through the night,” Dr. Aguilera said. “Children will likely follow your sleep pattern. The change has to start with you.”
2. Do you recommend sleep training? Sleep training is a common practice in developed countries such as the U.S. and the U.K., wherein parents let their babies sleep in the crib in another room and cry or soothe themselves back to sleep when they wake up in the middle of the night.
Sleep-training can be very harsh. Dr. Aguilera admits he tried to sleep-train his child, but he couldn’t do it. “I think it's our culture also. Hindi mo papabayaan yung anak mo matulog sa ibang kuwarto. You want to see them; you want to see them sleeping well.”
3. What can I do when my kid wake up crying or screaming at the night? Night terrors occur when a child wakes up startled, crying or having extreme fear, but they don’t have any recollection of what happened. When you’re child is having a night terror the best thing to do is to calm them down and reassure them they are safe, advises Dr. Aguilera. Don’t yank them off of their slumber unless the child is physically in danger.
When your children have nightmares, they usually remember what happened. Ask them to tell you about it; you can also wait until the next morning if he doesn't want to tell you. Don't push. Sometimes kids have nightmares when they're exhausted or lack quality sleep. Find out what may be troubling him.
Recurring nightmares or night terrors, though, is a different story. Dr. Aguilera advises consulting a sleep doctor so he can look into the quality of sleep if he snores or has sleep apnea.
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4. Is teeth grinding harmful for a child? “The most popular theory behind teeth-grinding is anxiety,” says Dr. Aguilera. Usually, doctors would prescribe using a mouth guard when sleeping, but “it’s more to protect the teeth and decrease the tension in the muscle,” he explained. Relaxation techniques also help. Again, it is where a solid bedtime routine would be handy.