Common Sleep Problems in Children

Updated at: May 17, 2011
Common Sleep Problems in Children

Common sleep problems in children - The common sleep probloems in chidren include night terrors, sleepwalking and bruxism. Most of these common sleep problems are readily treatable when detected on time. These sleep problems in children also disap

Dr Poonam Sachdev
Tips for ParentWritten by: Dr Poonam SachdevPublished at: May 17, 2011

Girl touch her eyeSleep problems are seen not only in infants and small children but in older children as well. Your infant may refuse to sleep, wake up repeatedly at night whereas older children may refuse to sleep in time at night and sleep till late. Read to know more about common sleep problems in children and how to deal with it.


Sleeping late


This is a common sleep related problem in older children, who gradually start sleeping late at night. They may stay up till late during weekends and holidays and then sleep till late the next day, sometimes until noon. The disturbed schedule carries over into the weekdays and may cause difficulty in sleeping on time at night and getting up in the morning.  To avoid this problem encourage your child to sleep on time and get up on time every day. Try to gradually shift the sleeping time to a more regular sleep cycle.




Nightmares are a common sleep problem in children between the ages of three and eight. Like adults children may also dream when they are in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. A child may get scared after a nightmare as s/he does not recognise that it was just a dream and not real—this is why they react to it and feel scared. All children have a nightmare occasionally, but if your child frequently wakes up because of a nightmare it can be a response to stress or your child being anxious about something. Try to find and work on it. You cannot prevent a nightmare but certain things that can help your child to sleep well are:


  • Decrease your child’s stress.
  • Do not let your child read scary books or watch scary programs on TV.
  • Have a scheduled bedtime.
  • Make her/his room comfortable. Give your child a special toy or blanket for bed.
  • Talk about the nightmare. It will make him understand it was just a dream. You need to encourage your child to sleep.


Night Terrors


This is another common sleep problem in children. Night terror is similar to a nightmare. It disturbs the sleep and the child feels scared. But in case of a night terror, your child wakes up in the middle of night and his fear is usually inconsolable no matter what you try. It has a dramatic presentation and can be very alarming. However, you need to be patient and not feel distressed. Do not try to wake up your child as it usually doesn’t work. Hold her/him tightly; most children calm down and go back to sleep in some time. Night terrors usually stop as the child grows older but if you are worried consult your doctor.




Some children may walk around the house in their sleep but they are not aware of what they are doing. Sleepwalking, like night terrors, occurs a few hours after your child goes to sleep. You need not wake up your child when s/he is sleepwalking; just taking her/him back to bed is enough. If your child often walks in sleep and you are worried about his safety, try to note the time when he usually sleepwalks and try to wake him up yourself before that time. This will break the cycle and decrease his sleepwalking.




Many parents complain that their child grinds or clenches her/his teeth while sleeping. You  need not get worried about it unless it is leading to damage of his teeth. Get your child evaluated by a paediatric dentist to assess the damage to the teeth. The dentist may recommend a plastic mouth guard to prevent damage.


Most of the sleep problems in children resolve as the child matures. However, there are many other things that you teach your child if you have to teach them good sleep habits. There is no proven way to put your kid to sleep. If your child sleeps well and gets the sleep s/he needs, then stick to your current routine. However, if your child has sleeping problems which leave both her/him and you tired and frustrated, then try to change her/his sleeping habits. And if you are really concerned about your child’s sleeping problems, consult his paediatrician or a child and adolescent psychiatrist.


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