Sleeping Problems in Children: What Parents Can Do

sleep disorder in children

Our bodies repair, rest, and restore energy levels when we sleep. It is an integral part of health, yet statistics from across the country show that about 25-50% of children are not getting enough sleep. As parents, we all want our children to rest well at night. This blog will explain the most common toddler sleep problems, their negative impact, and easy ways to fall asleep.


Negative Effects of Sleep Disorder in Children

Children need more sleep than adults because they are still growing and developing physically and mentally. As a result, children who do not get enough sleep will suffer from various negative effects on their overall health, growth, and development. Sleep problems in children are a painful reality for many parents. While sleeplessness is normal from time to time, it can quickly become a long-term problem that significantly strains the family dynamic.


The adverse effects of pediatric sleep disorders include

  • Poor memory
  • Behavioral issues like being cranky, tired, and irritable
  • Learning difficulties and academic underachievement
  • Poor sleep can lead to poor nutrition and overall health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
  • Increased risk of accidents due to decreased motor coordination
  • It affects their social interactions


How Do I Know If My Child Has a Sleep Problem?

Sleep disorders are common in children and can have serious consequences, especially during their formative years. They can range from mild to severe. Parents should know how to recognize whether their child’s sleep troubles are normal or more serious. If you’re not sure if your child has a sleep problem, here are some signs that indicate they might:


  • Frequent headaches
  • Having nightmares
  • Bedwetting after age 5
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Can’t focus or interact properly 
  • Having trouble falling asleep 
  • Difficulty waking up in the morning
  • Falling asleep at inappropriate times
  • Cries or screams when put to bed at night
  • Daytime irritability or crankiness; mood swings
  • Lack of energy and appetite throughout the day
  • Suddenly waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back asleep


Reasons Why Your Child Can’t Sleep Well

Do you ever wonder why your baby or toddler won’t go to sleep? Most children’s sleep disorders are either behavioral or medical in nature. Sometimes, external factors in the environment play a big role too. Here are the top reasons why your child can’t snooze easily.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea 

This is a condition where your child stops breathing for short periods during sleep. Snoring is one telltale sign of OSA, although not all snorers have the disorder. Other signs include pauses in breathing during sleep and daytime sleepiness.


Restless Legs Syndrome 

RLS or Restless legs syndrome causes an uncomfortable sensation under the legs’ skin and an urge to move them constantly to relieve it. It’s not clear what causes RLS, but it’s thought to be related to iron deficiency or other disorders that affect the nervous system.



This condition is when your child has difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. They may also have trouble falling asleep at the same time every night. Children with insomnia may be hyperactive, have difficulty focusing during school, and have behavior problems. Insomnia can also cause anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues.


Night Terrors / Nightmares

Night terrors occur during deep sleep when a person experiences fear as if they are awake but without any memory of it afterward. During these episodes, it is common for children to cry, scream or thrash around while sleeping but not be fully aware of what’s happening around them.



Children with ADHD often have trouble falling asleep because they have difficulty relaxing and calming down. It also causes children to be hyperactive and impulsive, making it challenging to stay still and quiet at bedtime.



Pain can keep children awake at night and make them very irritable during the day. Your child might be in pain if they have a sore throat, earache, stomachache, or teething.


Other Health Problems

Many health conditions can affect your child’s ability to sleep well at night, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), asthma, allergies, and nasal congestion..



Children are afraid of monsters, the dark, and ghosts. They also have fears about losing a parent or being abandoned by them. These fears can cause sleepless nights for parents as well as children.


Anxiety and Stress

Children feel stressed when there are big changes in their lives, such as starting school, moving to a new neighborhood, or having a family member. They also feel anxious about things that seem normal to adults but seem major to them — like going to sleepovers or camp without Mom and Dad around. Children who have trouble coping with these stresses may have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep at night.


Lack of Routine

If your child isn’t in a routine, or if you’ve recently changed one of their sleep habits, it can throw their body clock off balance. Among the scenarios that may disrupt sleep patterns are:

  • A lack of regularity or consistency in your child’s bedtime routine
  • An inconsistent bedtime hour, such as going to bed at different times on school nights and weekends
  • An irregular nap schedule, for example, naps at different times each day



It’s hard to fall asleep if you’re overstimulated. This is especially true for children who are very active and outgoing. If your child is up late watching television, playing video games, or using the computer, they will likely have trouble falling asleep.


External Factors

Noise, light, temperature, and humidity affect how well you sleep. If your child’s bedroom is too noisy or bright, they may not be able to fall asleep at night. A temperature that is too cold or warm, or too humid air can also keep them from snoozing. Additionally, they may have too many distractions in their room, like toys and stuffed animals which could keep them awake instead of sleeping.


10 Ways on How to Improve Your Child’s Sleep

If your child has trouble getting a good night’s sleep, there are ways you can help them feel more energetic in the morning and start the day off right. Here are some things you can do:


1. Establish a consistent bedtime routine

Starting at least 30 minutes before bedtime, follow the same sequence every night. This routine may include a bath or shower, brushing teeth, reading a book, or playing with toys until your child starts getting sleepy. Set the same bedtime every night for your child — even on weekends!


2. Timely consumption of food and drinks

When you can’t sleep, things to do also apply to your child, such as not eating heavy meals or exercising right before bedtime. Also, don’t let them drink caffeinated beverages like soda, iced tea, or energy drinks after lunch, as they can cause children to become restless.


3. Keep the bedroom dark

The presence of too much light in your bedroom can signal your body to stay awake. Make sure the bedroom is dark! Turn off fluorescent lamps or any other lights that emit blue light at least 30 mins before bedtime. Use blackout curtains that block all light with unique fabrics. However, some children may also find it helpful to have a night light on so they don’t feel scared of the dark – especially if they have experienced night terrors before! 


4. Relax before bedtime

Allow your child to relax before bedtime. They will be more likely to fall asleep if they have some time to unwind. Perhaps your child can take a warm bath, read a story, play with soft toys or listen to calming music. 


5. Create a comfortable sleeping environment

Keep the temperature cool enough for comfort but not too cold. The ideal temperature is about 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius). Make sure blankets aren’t too warm because they can make your child feel hot and uncomfortable while sleeping. Moreover, choose a mattress that suits their size and weight, so they don’t develop any aches while they sleep! 


6. Limit screen time before bed

No TV, cellphones, or computer before bed! The bright lights from these devices can disrupt melatonin production and make it more difficult for your child’s body to fall asleep naturally. 


7. Keep naps short and early in the day, if possible.

Naps during the day can interfere with nighttime sleep because it makes them alert and energetic. If they nap during the day, try to keep it short (15-30 mins.) and predictable so they aren’t overly tired by night and stay awake longer than necessary.


8. Get an evaluation by a pediatrician or child psychologist

If your child isn’t sleeping well and this is causing you concern, get an evaluation from a pediatrician or child psychologist specializing in sleep issues. These professionals can help identify any underlying problems contributing to sleep difficulties and make treatment recommendations.  

Bring a sleep log of their bedtimes and any sleep disturbances they’ve experienced. Doctors may also ask for daytime routines, mealtimes, toilet visits, and other symptoms. This information can help them give the best treatment or help adjust your children’s diets, medications, and bedtimes.


9. Don’t Sleep With a Pet

The companionship of pets is wonderful, but it can also cause sleepless nights. Pets can be very noisy when they snore or whine, and no one wants to listen to that all night long. Moreover, dogs and cats can cause allergies, asthma, and eczema. If you have a pet, it’s best to keep them out of the bedroom at night.


10. Turn down the noise level

If your neighbor or neighborhood is noisy, you may want to invest in some earplugs or white noise machines. These machines come with various sounds, including ocean waves, rainforest sounds, etc. If your child is afraid of too much silence, try using music as a sleep aid. Research shows that music can reduce stress and help people fall asleep faster. We recommend parents use soft classical music or even lullabies as part of their bedtime routine with their children.


Healthy Sleep for a Healthy Future

We hope these tips can maximize your child’s sound sleep habits. As parents, it is our responsibility to provide the proper tools and support to our children so that they can sleep well for proper development. With consistency, you’re optimally setting the foundation for a lifetime of good sleeping patterns. Ultimately, your child will be more rested, focused, and healthier throughout their life.

For more parenting tips, please read the CMCFresno blog. Call (559) 455-1500 or schedule an appointment online if you want your child to get evaluated.


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