Should I be concerned about my six‐year‐old sleeping too much? She does not want to wake up in the morning, even though she goes to bed early and sleeps through the night? Is this normal? Do you have any suggestions?
It’s not unusual for a six‐year‐old to have difficulty getting up in the morning, especially on school days. At first glance, the situation you’ve described looks pretty normal. We could be wrong, of course, particularly if there are complicating factors you haven’t mentioned. A great deal depends on the underlying reasons for your child’s unwillingness (or inability) to get out of bed.
If you’re uncertain about this, we suggest you conduct an informal investigation. You might try encouraging your child to get up with an enthusiastic reminder of some positive thing or event that’s in store for her that day. It should be something you know she really wants or really likes to do. Or you might see how she responds to an unexpected surprise, like a trip to the beach or a package that’s arrived for her from Grandpa and Grandma.
If she immediately jumps out of bed, there’s a good chance that you’re dealing with nothing more than a case of plain old laziness. It could also be copy‐cat behavior if there’s a teen in the house who has a habit of sleeping in. In either case, you may be able to resolve the problem with a simple system of motivations and rewards. Put a large glass jar in her room and allow your child to place a marble inside every time she gets up on time; then, when the jar is full, let her choose a fun family outing that the entire household can enjoy. If that doesn’t work, try giving her an extra half‐hour in the morning and see if it helps.
By the way, does your child have any handheld video games or similar electronics? Many parents find that their children’s sleep hours are curtailed by late‐night game sessions, even at this tender age. If your child does have handheld video games or other digital distractions, you should impose a strict curfew on their use. Computers and televisions can also tempt children to stay up much later than they ought to. Sit down, as a family, and discuss healthy screen time and set Family Boundaries (Asset #11) for these behaviors. For this reason (and for a host of much more serious ones), children should not have these in their rooms, especially at this age.
If your child’s fatigue and sluggishness continue, you may need to dig a little deeper to find out what else might be going on. Is the child really sleeping through the night, as you’re assuming? Or is it possible that she’s secretly suffering from insomnia or getting up too often to go to the bathroom? You can probably solve the mystery with a few simple questions.
If you’re still coming up blank, it might be time to ask yourself if there’s something more serious going on. Does your child snore? This may be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that disrupts sleep and can leave a person feeling tired the next day. Depression is notorious for disrupting normal sleep patterns. It’s also possible that your child’s behavior is a symptom of withdrawal due to some kind of stress. Maybe she’s facing bully troubles or other pressures at school. Find out what might be going on in her world and help to introduce her to helpful adults at her school (Asset #5: Caring School Climate).
To complicate matters, too much sleep can actually cause increased fatigue. In other words, this problem can become a vicious cycle. If you suspect that any of these causes might be present, we’d suggest that you consult with your family doctor or pediatrician.
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