Blog provided by Together Trust. Together Trust champions for the rights and needs of care-experienced children and people with disabilities, autism and mental health differences.
When you are sleep deprived and frantically searching the internet in the early hours of the morning for help, you are likely to come across a whole host of misinformation and some common sleep myths. These sleep myths do not help the situation, and certainly don’t improve sleep, so let’s crack open some of the most common sleep myths to help you separate fact from fiction.
Myth 1 - “My child can catch up on sleep at the weekend”
If you’ve had a rough week and no one in the house has had much sleep, it’s very tempting to all try and “catch up” on sleep during the weekend in hopes that you’ll then be able to reset back to normal on the Monday. However, this was easily do more harm than good. Your body needs a consistent routine and sleep pattern to regulate our circadian rhythm (internal body clock) and maximise not only how much sleep we get, but the quality of sleep. Try getting up and going to sleep at the same time every day.
Myth 2 - “If my child sleeps during the day they won’t sleep at night”.
Well, there is some truth in this one. It entirely depends on the child’s age. Children under 2-2.5 (on average) will still require an afternoon nap time to recharge and prevent over tiredness at bedtime. You’ll often find that children under 2 who don’t nap in the day then really struggle to settle at bedtime and they might wake up really early to start their day. Babies/infants will need significantly more day sleep and their sleep needs change very quickly in the first year (till they drop to 1 nap a day). This day sleep for infants is vital for supporting their growth and development.
Myth 3 - “Melatonin medication will instantly help my child sleep better”.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone in the body which controls when we feel tired. Melatonin starts to rise on an evening (making us sleepy) and reduces in the early hours of the morning to prepare us for waking up. Some children who do not sleep well are prescribed a synthetic melatonin in order to help them sleep better. Sadly, the evidence shows that Melatonin may help the child fall asleep at bedtime, but it doesn’t help the child stay asleep (meaning those wake ups could remain!). some environmental changes around the child could be more effective but always follow the guidance from your doctor.
Myth 4 - “Hot chocolate for bed will help my child be sleepy”
It is probably surprising to read that hot chocolate can have the opposite effect. Hot chocolate powders have caffeine in them, and caffeine is a stimulant, waking up our central nervous system and making us feel very alert and awake. Instead, you could try having a cup of warm milk or lemon in warm water. Sorry hot choccies, you’ve been banished from the evening routines!
Myth 5 - “Children outgrow sleep problems”.
Unfortunately, the studies show that young children who have sleeping problems often do not outgrow them and makes them more susceptible to sleep problems in adulthood. If a doctor has ruled out medical problems, you could undergo some behavioural interventions to teach some good sleep habits for life!
Sleep soundly tonight knowing the truth about these common sleep misconceptions!