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Ask The Expert


TOPIC OF THE MONTH: "Calming the Struggle to Sleep"
About the Expert
 Mrs. Jennifer Calladio-Nuzzo is a wife and mother of two. She grew up struggling with a sleeping disorder but was not diagnosed with Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder until adulthood. It was a relief to know that it wasn’t her fault especially after hearing that she was "lazy" and "slow" for a good portion of her childhood. Now, she has a sleep schedule that she strictly adheres to and maintains a (mostly) healthy sleep diet. Jenni was excited to share information on the research she’s done so that families can begin to think differently about sleep and better able help their children. Thanks Jenn!
"Calming the Struggle to Sleep"
If your child is having chronic sleep issues, his or her lack of sleep can have consequences far beyond being a little tired. Insufficient or interrupted sleep can lead to problems concentrating, learning, and focusing; depression, irritability, and other mood disturbances; behavior problems; and poor performance at school. And, if a child’s disorder goes undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or misunderstood, these mental and emotional consequences could result in the child being labeled as “lazy,” “undisciplined,” or “out-of-control.”
Insomnia DisorderDelayed Sleep Phase DisorderSleep terrorsNarcolepsyChildren with ADHD or ASD can also struggle with falling to or maintaining sleep due to the nature of their disorders and its affect on natural body rhythms. Those who are affected may: engage in more pronounced sensory seeking behaviors, toss and turn frequently, engage in intense physical or vocal stims, become more emotionally disregulated as it gets closer to bedtime, etc.
Fortunately, there are things we can do, as parents, grandparents and caregivers that can increase our ability to cope and to help our children develop good sleep habits.
      1.            Your doctor may need to rule out and/or treat any underlying physical or emotional causes for your child’s sleeping difficulty. In addition, many hospitals have special sleep centers that may help you and your child to understand his/her sleep disorder, and develop strategies for getting a better night’s sleep.
      2.            Note things like when your child wakens and when he or she falls asleep, what foods your child eats and when, what activities happen before bedtime, and anything else you think may be contributing to your child’s sleep pattern. This can help provide clues to the things in your child’s life that impact his or her sleep.
      3.            .Help your child learn relaxation practices.Make sure your child gets regular exercise...just not before bedtime.Make sure your child’s bedroom is conducive to a good night’s sleepMake sure bed is for sleep only If possible, try to limit daytime play or work in your child’s room. Keep your child’s bed as a place for quiet, peace, and sleep. Reduce napping to only if your child is unable to get a restful night’s sleep.
      8.            .Be educated...and help educate others Remember, if your child has a sleep disorder, he or she is not being willful or naughty. Helping your child to get into a good, regular sleep schedule can take time. Learn all you can about your child’s disorder, and maintain an ongoing dialogue with your child’s teachers, doctors and caregivers, helping them to understand your child’s challenges, and helping them to be part of your child’s “sleep support team.”
 10.            Often caring for a child with a sleep disorder can leave parents or caregivers feeling exhausted, frustrated and angry. If possible, give yourself some “me-time” or time with your spouse or other adults, to “recharge.” Remember to take care of yourself, physically and emotionally. And … you are not alone. There are support groups, both online and face-to-face, where parents of children with sleep disorders can discuss concerns and challenges in a caring environment.
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