Sleep disturbances are recognized as a common problem for children and adolescents with chronic pain conditions. Sleep problems have been found in up to 45% of children with functional GI disorders.

Difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep are most commonly reported. Adolescents have more trouble falling asleep than younger children.

Sleep problems may negatively affect daily function in a variety of ways. In middle school children, daytime sleepiness has been associated with high rates of absenteeism, low school achievement, and low school enjoyment.

Adequate sleep, in contrast, appears to directly promote tissue healing, immune function, and the body’s natural pain relief systems. Practices which help improve sleep may therefore be of benefit to any child with a GI disorder.

Six Tips to Improve Sleep

Here are some simple tips to improve sleep quality in children (and in adults).

  • Stick to a sleep schedule. Your child should go to bed and wake up at a regular time (even on weekends).
  • Exercise. Include regular exercise into your child’s schedule.
  • Avoid caffeine. It can take 8 hours for the effects of caffeine to wear off.
  • Avoid large meals and beverages late at night. This can cause reflux as well as cause the child to awaken frequently to use the bathroom.
  • Have your child relax before bed. This should be a daily part of his or her sleep ritual.
  • Have a good sleeping environment. Get rid of anything that might distract or interrupt your child’s sleep such as TVs, computers, bright lights, or noises.

If your child continues to have trouble sleeping or does not feel well-rested during the day, speak to his or her doctor.

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Talking About GI Disorders in Children

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