The common saying "sleep like a baby, “describes the deep, restful sleep often associated with childhood. But while some babies and toddlers don'tsleep in peaceOthers move at regular intervals or a lot during the night instead of staying still.
Find out more about the health effects of a child who moves around a lot during their sleep, the stages at which this happens and when to be concerned.
Is sleep movement normal in children?
Parents are understandably concerned when they notice their child tossing, sitting up, or tossing and turning during sleep. Common concerns can include whether your child is getting enough sleep, whether sleep is restful, whether irregular sleep could be a sign of an underlying medical condition, or whether there is a risk of injury.
In many cases, however, movements during sleep are completely normal and are observed across many age groupsBabies,small children,preschoolers, and even teenagers, says Shelby Harris, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and sleep medicine specialist based in New York. "Some children move around a lot while they sleep, but by the time they reach elementary school, the behavior tends to stabilize," she says.
However, very restless sleep or anything that makes a parent uncomfortable can indicate a potential health problem, says Dr. Shalini Paruthi, an expert in sleep medicine and internal medicine and co-director of the Center for Research and Medicine in the United States Sleep at St. Luke's Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri.
The type and frequency of movement depends on the child, says Dr. harris. "Sometimes a child will sit up, yawn, move their limbs, rub their eyes, fidget, and then go back to sleep," he explains.
Shelby Harris, Psychologin
Sleeping without moving in bed is a learned behavior more than anything else, and it takes time to get there.
— Shelby Harris, PsyD
Things that disturb children's sleep
Understand sleep cycles
All humans need adequate sleep to function properly. But children in particular have to sleep a large part of the day, with babies and the likechildren under threespend more time sleeping than waking.And regardless of whether or not the child moves while sleeping, there is a lot of activity in both the brain and the body.
Sleep is a complex process about which much is still unknown. However, it is clear that it is vitalincrease, development, healing, recovery, memory consolidation, brain activity and revitalization occur in people of all ages during sleep, and poor sleep can have adverse health effects.
"All children (and adults) wake up multiple times during the night, usually after the completion of each sleep cycle," says Dr. harris.
There are two types of sleep: Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM) sleep, which includes four progressively deeper stages, and Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which occurs when dreams occur. These sleep stages occur cyclically throughout the night and most of the time is spent in NREM sleep.
Typical sleep movement timing
"Many caregivers/parents find that their child has restless sleep for some or part of each night," says Dr. Paruthi. "Some movements during sleep are normal, like changing positions a few times an hour."
Short movements, light sleep, and awakening are normal, especially between sleep states. The frequency and intensity of nocturnal restlessness varies among children, but is more common in infants,small childrenand teenagers.
In fact, these periods of activity are useful and necessary. "Changing positions is important at night," says Paruthi, "so that our nerves are not pinched, i.e. 'falling asleep'."
Sleep movement often slows down over time. "They usually grow out of it," says Dr. harris. "But if there's an underlying sleep disorder, like restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder, or sleep apnea, you usually won't get over it until the underlying problem is addressed."
So if a caregiver or parent notices more agitation than expected, or your child wakes up unrested, Paruthi recommends discussing this with your pediatrician or sleep specialist.
How to get your child to go to bed
Possible signs of sleep problems
While varying degrees of movement during the night's sleep is healthy and normal, sometimes movement during sleep indicates a health problem. Therefore, it is important to keep an eye on your child's sleep movements.
It's also worth noting that sleep problems are common in childhood. In fact, research tells us that sleep and waking disorders affect about a third of all children. In addition, about 25% of children under the age of five have some type of sleep problem.
Signs of sleep disorders that might be linked to excessive movement during sleep include the following, says Dr. Harris:
- difficulty waking up
- Stop breathing, snoring, or wheezing while sleeping
- breathe mouth
- move excessively
- I don't feel refreshed from sleep
- Not having a regular sleeping and waking cycle
- Pain or discomfort in the extremities (and/or moving them during sleep), which may also be related to "growing pains".
- problems falling asleep
- Acordar common during or are
Dra. Shalini Paruthi
If a child has a daytime disorder related to sleepiness,hyperactivity,behave,academic, or learning disabilities, it makes sense to ask questions about various sleep issues that could be causing poor sleep quality.
– Shalini Paruthi, MD
Tips for sleep deprived parents
There are a variety of possible health conditions that can cause more irregular sleep and may require a doctor's attention. Therefore, if you have concerns about your child's sleep movements and/or if you feel an underlying medical condition is contributing to the irregular sleep, consult your doctor for an assessment of your specific sleep problems and for advice. treatment plan, if applicable
obstructive sleep apnea
Restlessness can occur with some sleep disorders, such as B. Obstructive sleep apnea, a common condition in children and adults that causes breathing to stop and start again during sleep."If a child has a partial or complete respiratory blockage and may wheeze or gasp when normal breathing resumes," says Dr. Paruthi. "This is usually accompanied by a change of position."
Stress and other psychological problems
Stress, anxiety, and traumatic events have been shown to negatively impact sleep, which can also lead to increased sleep movement and sleep disruption."Insomnia is a growing problem [for older children], as is increased stress and pressure, anxiety and depression," says Dr. harris. Difficulty falling asleep can contribute to further upset moods.
Restless Legs Syndrome
Another common sleep disorder associated with movement during sleep is restless legs syndrome (RLS).RLS is an uncomfortable feeling that usually occurs in the legs at night and often gets worse with rest and sleep, explains Dr. Paruthi. Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) is a related condition in which symptoms of repetitive limb movements occur during sleep.
Dra. Shalini Paruthi
Many children have Restless Legs Syndrome, but they may not have the words to describe how their legs feel. Instead, [they] may just look fidgety when it's time to sleep, or say their legs "hurt."
– Shalini Paruthi, MD
A more extreme example of movement during sleep is sleepwalking."You can accidentally leave the house, so door alarms are recommended for security reasons," suggests Dr. Paruthi.
Irregular sleep can also occur at night or night terrors, a condition that affects up to 6.5% of children under the age of 12. In these episodes, children may thrash, sit up, and/or suddenly wake up in a state of alarm, chaos, and distress. and was confused. Although often frightening, night terrors are not harmful and children usually outgrow them.
How to deal with sleep problems in older children
How to help children sleep better
First, determine if your child's sleep movements are normal. If it doesn't, or you're not sure, get an evaluation (and treatment, if necessary) from your doctor. You can also consult a pediatrician or sleep medicine specialist. "If a sleep disorder is recognized and treated, sleep should become more restful," explains Dr. Paruthi.
Additionally, following sleep hygiene recommendations can help children who move during their sleep improve sleep quality and safety. These guidelines include sticking to a regular sleep schedule, sleeping in a cool, dark room free of distractions, and having a relaxing bedtime like showering and reading before bed.
Children can also move when they need to wake up to go to the toilet. So limiting drinks to a few hours before bed and making sure your child goes to the bathroom before bed can help them get through the night more comfortably.
Also be aware of the danger of falling off the bed or onto something sharp, e.g. B. against the corner of a side table. "Sleep safety is really important!" says dr. Paruthi who recommends to everyoneyou drinkand young children sleep in their own crib, playpen, or other safe place to sleep and nap.
"For toddlers who are ready to get out of their crib, I recommend a mattress on the floor, an appropriately sized toddler bed, or a bed with bars - all for safety reasons so they don't fall out of bed," says Dr. paruti
A word from Verywell
Although the amount and strength of movement during sleep varies between babies and children, it is normal and healthy for babies to occasionally change their body position during sleep. However, because excessive or erratic movements can be a sign of an underlying medical condition, it's recommended that you consult your child's doctor if you notice any type of nighttime instability that worries you.