Ask Dr. Lisa: Child’s Nighttime Wakings a Sleep Issue or Discipline Issue?

  • Posted: November 13, 2011 
  • Filed under: Articles

Time for another edition of Ask Dr. Lisa, where you get to ask a sleep doctor your sleep questions … without an appointment!  We pick out sleep-related questions submitted on our Facebook Page, and send them to our medical sleep expert, Dr. Lisa Shives, for an answer. In this installment, Dr. Lisa talks about a child’s nighttime wakings.

Kathy Johnson asks: Dr. Shives, my nephew, who is now seven years old, repeatedly gets up every night at around 3am and wakes his parents. Is there something physiological going on or is this just a lack of discipline throughout the day?

Dr. Lisa says: He likely suffers from a behavioral insomnia of childhood, a limit-setting type which is characterized as reliance on sleep associations that he cannot replicate himself during the night when he naturally wakes up as all children will. Examples of inappropriate sleep associations are rubbing the back, reading to the child until he is asleep, allowing the child to fall asleep in front of the TV or in the parents’ bed. We recommend that children are in their beds, drowsy but awake, when the lights are turned off. Of course, the parents should be sure that the child does not have any medical complaints that should be discussed with their pediatrician.

Dr. Shives works with to provide a medical view of sleep issues. She is one of only a few practitioners with a fellowship in Sleep Medicine in addition to board certification by both the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Sleep Medicine.

Learn more about Dr. Lisa Shives by clicking here.