Is your child:
Having a child who does not sleep well can be very stressful. You may find that your child always needs just one more thing before he can go to bed. For example, ‘I need a glass of water,’ ‘I need 6 stuffed animals in my bed,’ or ‘Mom, can I sleep in your room?’ may be frequent phrases around your house.
Parents may be frustrated and exhausted. Siblings may get annoyed by the sound of a little sister crying at midnight.
Your child’s daily functioning may be impaired due to poor sleep habits. He may fall asleep at school or have learning problems due to chronic drowsiness. Health problems may result due to lack of sleep. For example, some kids keep getting sick with every little bug that goes around due to poor sleep habits. Nightmares may prevent a child from falling asleep, for fear of recurrence.
Clinically, several reasons can explain why your child cannot sleep.
Circadian rhythms: Some children have difficulty with their circadian rhythms, which means that the typical patterns of when a person gets sleepy and wakes up in the morning are not working well. Gifted children often do not sleep well. Some typically developing children just do not sleep much.
Snoring: One common sign of sleep problems is snoring. Individuals who snore are much more likely to suffer from sleep apnea, particularly for obese people . Signs of sleep apnea are: restricted breathing, gasping for air, and snoring. To test for sleep apnea, your local children’s hospital can conduct a sleep study to see whether or not your child’s sleep may be impaired due to breathing problems. Although dental devices and other surgical procedures may help treat sleep apnea, over-the-counter treatments are not recommended . These issues should be explored with your child’s pediatrician.
Anxiety: Another very common sleep problem is anxiety. If your child worries a lot, it is likely his or her sleep will be impaired. If your child is sleepy or wakes up a lot, it is helpful to find out what he or she is thinking about before bed. Is there a test tomorrow? Are there friendship problems?
Nightmares: If your child is having bad dreams and can remember them, check in to see if the dreams have any particular theme. For example, the dreams may all be about showing up late for things or unprepared, or your child may have dreams about being embarrassed or made fun of at school. In the former case, your child may have generalized anxiety and a dose of perfectionism. In the latter, your child may have social anxiety. See ‘potential disabilities’ section for more on nightmares.
If your child can’t sleep, the most important place to start is with is your nighttime routine. Certainly, issues can be occurring beyond the routine, but parents are well advised to initiate a nighttime ritual as the first line intervention.
If your child is struggling with a similar problem, not directly addressed in this section, see the list below for links to information about other related symptom areas.
Children who have significant problems in this area may have any of the following potential disabilities. *Note, this does not serve as a diagnosis in any way. See ‘Where to Go for Help’ section for professionals who can diagnose or provide a referral.
If your child is struggling with this symptom to the point that it is getting in the way of his learning, relationships, or happiness, the following professionals could help; they may offer diagnosis, treatment, or both.
These professionals may recommend the following tests for this symptom:
 Rocky Mountain Pediatric Neurology & Sleep Medicine: rockymountainkidsneuro.com
 Huebner, Dawn & Matthews, Bonnie (2008). What to do when you dread your bed: A kid’s guide to overcoming problems with sleep (What to do guides for kids).
 Peters, Daniel (2013) From worrier to warrior: A guide for conquering your fears.
 American Psychiatric Association (2013) Diagnositic and statistical manual of mental disorders, Fifth edition (DSM-V).
 Richard Schwab (2016) Professor of Medicine: University of Pennsylvania. Wharton Business Radio XM: Episodes: 10/11/2016 @12:00 PM, 7/19/2016 @12:00 PM. https://businessradio.wharton.upenn.edu/programs/the-business-of-health-care/guests/
 Gates, Mariam & Hinder, Jane (2015). Good Night Yoga. A pose by pose bedtime story.
Description toddler girl closing her eyes in the bed perhaps she is seeing bad dreams
Stock Photo ID: #42948022 (Big Stock)
Previously Licensed on: Sep 21, 2016
Stylized by Katie Harwood exclusively for CLEAR Child Psychology