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How can you make your child sleep like a baby?

Children waking during the night affects the whole family. One expert tells Stephanie Bell how to ensure everyone gets some peace

It's one of the toughest and most common challenges of parenthood – coping with a child who has sleep difficulties. When your little one has trouble sleeping it means that not only are they tired during the day but you too face struggling on while feeling exhausted.

Help is at hand in the medical world where considerable research has gone into developing a set of tips designed to enhance good sleeping in children and what's more, according to one local consultant, they do work.

These good sleep habits have recently been given their own medical terminology and are now referred to as sleep hygiene.

Deirdre McPeake (44), a mum of three from Holywood, is a consultant paediatric neurologist at 3fivetwo Healthcare and the Royal Hospital for Sick Children.

Deirdre regularly treats children who have trouble sleeping and emphasises that most sleep disturbance in children does not have an underlying medical cause.

A mum herself to Conor (12), Ciara (10) and Aiobheann (5), Deirdre is married to John (40) a financial project manager.

She says: "Sleep difficulties with children are very common but there are no overall statistics because the majority do not require medical advice.

"It causes a massive impact, not just on the child, but also on the parents who are maybe up multiple times during the night and then have to do a full day's work feeling tired.

"It can also have a knock-on effect on siblings, especially if they share a room with the child who can't sleep.

"Waking frequently is the most common problem and usually this is as a result of the continuation of that baby period when they woke up for feeds during the night and this has carried on.

"There are so many things parents can do to help the situation get back to normal."

Good sleep hygiene is, she says, the answer which consists of good bedtime routines and a series of easy to follow tips.

Deirdre adds: "I would always advise parents to take a week when they have support, especially single parents, so that they can take it in shifts.

"Also maybe start your new routine at the weekend or during holidays when you don't have to go to work and can maybe catch up on sleep the next day.

"A lot of research has gone into compiling the tips for good sleep hygiene and they do work.

"A lack of sleep generally does not do any harm to a child but can cause a lot of stress in the family.

"If anyone is suffering significant stress then it is very appropriate to see their GP and if it can't be solved by the GP, then seek the help of experts."

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