Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Basic Principles of Sleep Hygiene for Children

My bhabhi (sister-in-law) has an adorable 1 year old boy. This otherwise happy baby however becomes a extreemly fussy, irritable and cranky at least once/ twice a day.... Reason: Sleep time! In my practice I have come across innumerable instances of children having a lot of difficulty in falling of to sleep.
Listed below are a few tips to help get your child to sleep without a lot of fuss

Have a set bedtime and bedtime routine for your child.
Bedtime and wake-up time should be about the same time on school nights and non-school nights. There should not be more than about an hour difference from one day to another.
Make the hour before bed shared quiet time. Avoid such high-energy activities as rough play, and stimulating activities such as watching TV or playing computer games just before bed.
Don't send your child to bed hungry. A light snack (such as milk and cookies) before bed is a good idea. Heavy meals within an hour or two of bedtime, however, may interfere with sleep.
Avoid products containing caffeine for at least several hours before bedtime. These include caffeinated sodas, coffee, tea, and chocolate.
Make sure your child spends time outside every day whenever possible and is involved in regular exercise.
Keep your child's bedroom quiet and dark. A low-level nightlight is acceptable for children who find completely dark rooms frightening.
Keep your child's bedroom at a comfortable temperature during the night (less than 75 degrees).
Don't use your child's bedroom for time-out or punishment.
Keep the television set out of your child's bedroom. Children can easily
develop the bad habit of “needing” the TV to fall asleep. It's also much more
difficult to control your child's TV viewing if the set is in the bedroom.

Source: Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics

Monday, February 07, 2005


Steam is a very important treatment in children for treating colds, stuffy nose and cough. Not only does it liquefy the mucus, but it also reduces nasal congestion and nasal blockage. In children the role of steam is more as they are not effectively able to cough out secretions and because medicines are more likely to cause side-effects in them.
The major problem in steam lies with the fact that no one likes taking it! Uncooperative children risk getting burnt if they do not take steam properly.
Here are a few tips on how to give safe and effective steam to your child;
  • Use a steamer with a closed top- this way there is a negligible chance of the child getting burnt in case of a spill.
  • Do not force the child to take steam, it is invariably preferable to try and earn their co-operation than to try and force them.
  • Keep the steamer near the bedside (on the floor) with the steam jet directed towards the child's face while they are sleeping.
  • For a smaller child (upto 6-8 months), keeping the baby in your lap while you take steam with a blanket/ cloth covering your face and the child is useful. Remember not to put the baby's face very close to the steam as there skin is very sensitive.
  • For an older child another option is to switch on the hot and cold water in the bathroom to create a sauna like effect and get the child inside and play with him/ tell him a story etc.
  • Keeping the steamer on in the bedroom is not very effective for giving steam as the room size is likely to be large. However this technique can be used in addition to the ones described (to reduce the dryness) above especially when you are using a heater/ warm air blower in the room.