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Sleep problems in children

Children and teenagers need at least nine hours of sleep per night. Sleep problems and a lack of sleep can have negative effects on a child’s performance at school, during extracurricular activities and in social relationships.

A lack of sleep may cause:

  • Accidents and injuries
  • Behaviour problems
  • Mood problems
  • Memory, concentration, and learning problems
  • Performance problems
  • Slower reaction times

Signs of sleep problems in children

Seek medical advice if your child shows any of the following signs of a sleep problem:

  • Snoring
  • Breathing pauses during sleep
  • Problems with sleeping through the night
  • Difficulty staying awake during the day
  • Unexplained decrease in daytime performance
  • Unusual events during sleep

Tips for helping your child's sleep problem

  • Establish a regular time for bed each night and do not vary from it. Similarly, the waking time should not differ from weekday to weekend by more than one to one and a half hours
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine, such as giving your child a warm bath or reading a story
  • Do not give children any food or drinks with caffeine less than six hours before bedtime
  • Make sure the temperature in the bedroom is comfortable and that the bedroom is dark
  • Make sure the noise level in the house is low
  • Avoid giving children large meals close to bedtime
  • Make after-dinner playtime a relaxing time as too much activity close to bedtime can keep children awake
  • There should be no television, radio, or music playing while the child is going to sleep
  • Infants and children should be put to bed when they appear tired but still awake - rather than falling asleep in the parent's arms, or in another room. Parents should avoid getting into bed with a child in order to get them to sleep. If this is difficult, seek medical advice.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on September 11, 2017

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