Elizabeth Lefai with Alani Jr, 3, and Zephaniah, 1. Picture: Jay Town
Elizabeth Lefai with Alani Jr, 3, and Zephaniah, 1. Picture: Jay Town

Worry keeping Aussie kids wide awake at night

Victorian families are losing hours of sleep a night because children are suffering from bedtime anxiety and sleeping issues.

The conditions are not well understood and are often dismissed as a normal part of growing up - but the impact on family life and the child's development can be significant and long-lasting.

New research reveals 85 per cent of Victorian households are affected with up to five hours a night being lost.

The research, commissioned by lighting company Signify, also found 42 per cent of parents thought the sleep issues were affecting their child's wellbeing.

Parents were suffering as well, with over half having their sleep affected by their children's issues with one in five saying it was causing financial problems or issues within relationships.

Clinical Psychologist and Behavioural Specialist Jaimie Bloch attributed the high figure to parents being aware of the issues their children were having.

Elizabeth Lefai with Alani Jr, 3, and Zephaniah, 1. Picture: Jay Town
Elizabeth Lefai with Alani Jr, 3, and Zephaniah, 1. Picture: Jay Town

"Sleep challenges are very common and getting good sleep and relaxation is an issue for adults, so it's not surprising at all children are struggling too."

An increase in screen time and artificial lighting both could lead to sleep problems for children.

Lighting was often overlooked by parents.

"This is detrimental to our bedtime routine, stress levels, even our ability to unwind and is often one of the last things parents think to change to improve their child's bedtime ritual."

Many of her clients - even if they came to her with other issues - were found to have had sleep problems.

Having a tech free zone in the lead up to bedtime was important, as was establishing a calming routine before bedtime.

"After school can be a busy team with homework and then dinner and all the other things everyone is trying to get done. So when they finally go to bed, children probably aren't feeling like they do want to sleep ... you need to relax and prepare the body for sleep."

Many parents hoped children would "just grow out of it", but Ms Bloch said strategies to maange and cope with sleep anxiety needed to be learned at young age so they didn't flow into adulthood.

The benefits were clear to teachers who told her they could see drastic improvements in the classroom.

Melbourne mum Elizabeth Lefai, 32, has a constant battle getting her children Alani Jnr Lefai, 3, and Zephaniah Lefai, 1, to sleep.

"It can be very tiring, for them and for me. They can take a long time to get to sleep and often wake a couple of times per night.'

Her boys like her being in the room with them until they fell asleep. "This can be anywhere from five minutes to 45 minutes."

She never knew sleep anxiety was a problem, but would now look into some strategies to try and fix the problem.

"I wasn't aware of it all. I just thought it was something to be expected."