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Sleep problems in children are common. Here we look at what it can mean and what you can do about it.

Sleep problems in children

Sleep problems in children are a common challenge that many families face, which can affect the well-being of both the child and the family. From difficulty falling asleep to waking up several times during the night, the various forms of sleep difficulties can have many causes, including stress, irregular sleep routines, environmental factors, and in some cases, underlying medical or psychological conditions.

These problems can affect not only a child’s energy level and mood during the day, but also their physical health and development. Understanding the most common types of sleep problems and how to effectively address them is essential to help your child achieve a good night’s sleep and promote a healthy lifestyle.

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Sleep problems at different ages

Understanding and identifying sleep problems in children of different ages is an important part of supporting their health and development. Here we describe how these problems can manifest themselves through different stages of childhood.

Infants (0-1 years)

Nature of sleep: Babies sleep a lot, but for short periods. Their sleep is not tied to the natural circadian rhythm, leading to irregular sleep.

Challenges: Difficulties in sleeping through the night are common. They may need to be fed frequently which disrupts their sleep.

Toddlers (1-3 years)

Nature of sleep: Toddlers need about 12-14 hours of sleep per day, including naps. They begin to adapt to more regular sleep patterns.

Challenges: Resistance to going to bed is common. The development of imagination may make them more susceptible to nightmares. There may be problems with bedwetting, dental anxiety, sleepwalking, sleep talking, breathing difficulties and difficulty sleeping in their own bed.

Preschool age (3-6 years)

Nature of sleep: Children at this age need about 10-12 hours of sleep per night.

Challenges: Difficulties falling asleep and waking up during the night may occur. Stress related to the day’s activities or changes in routine can affect their sleep. There may be problems with bedwetting, teeth grinding, sleepwalking, sleep talking, breathing difficulties and difficulty sleeping in their own bed.

School age (7-12 years)

Nature of sleep: Children need about 9-11 hours of sleep per night. Their activities and school work increase, requiring more from their sleep for recovery.

Challenges: Exposure to electronic screens and increased activity can disrupt their sleep routines, making it harder to fall asleep. There may also be fears of darkness, sleeping in their own bed, not being able to fall asleep, sleeping away, and nightmares.

Adolescence (13-18 years)

The nature of sleep: Teenagers need about 8-10 hours of sleep, but few achieve this. Biological changes shift their internal clock to later sleep and wake times.

Challenges: Late night habits and early school hours create a conflict that often leads to sleep deprivation. Social and academic pressures can also contribute to sleep difficulties. Circadian reversal, sleep problems such as insomnia, evening anxiety, delayed sleep phase and narcolepsy can also be problems.

In all age groups, creating a calming routine before bedtime, keeping the bedroom dark and comfortable, and limiting screen time are important to promote better sleep habits. Understanding these challenges is the first step in helping children develop healthier sleep habits that can support their well-being and development.

Sleep difficulties in children with ADHD

Children with ADHD can often face challenges with sleep, such as difficulty falling asleep, restless sleep, and frequent awakenings. Their tendency to be overactive and difficulties in following sleep routines can exacerbate these problems. A quiet evening routine, reduced screen time before bedtime, and a relaxing sleep environment can help. In case of persistent sleep difficulties, it is important to seek advice from a professional.


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Treatment of sleep problems in children

To treat sleep problems in children, it is important to create good sleep hygiene by establishing regular sleeping patterns and a calming evening routine. The bedroom should be optimized for sleep, which means it should be quiet, dark and cool. It is also important to limit your child’s screen time, especially before bedtime, to counteract the effects of blue light.

Physical activity during the day can facilitate falling asleep, while caffeine intake should be avoided. Relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises can also promote sleep. If these measures do not have the desired effect, it may be necessary to seek professional help from a child psychologist who can offer further advice or treatments.


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12 frequently asked questions about sleep problems in children

What are sleep problems in children?

Sleep problems can range from difficulty falling asleep to waking up several times during the night, the different forms of sleep difficulties can have many causes, including stress, irregular sleep routines, environmental factors, and in some cases, underlying medical or psychological conditions.

What can sleep problems in babies look like?

Difficulty sleeping through the night is common. They may need to be fed frequently, which often disrupts their sleep.

What can sleep problems look like in young children between 1-3 years old?

Resistance to going to bed and night terrors are common. The development of their imagination may make them more susceptible to nightmares. There may be problems with bedwetting, teeth grinding, sleepwalking, sleep talking, breathing difficulties and difficulty sleeping in their own bed.

What can sleep problems be like for children aged 4-5 years?

Difficulty falling asleep and waking up during the night may occur. Stress related to the day’s activities or changes in routine can affect their sleep. There may be problems with bedwetting, teeth grinding, sleepwalking, sleep talking, breathing difficulties and difficulty sleeping in their own bed.

How can sleep problems manifest themselves at the age of 6-12 years?

Exposure to electronic screens and increased activity can disrupt their sleep routines, making it harder to fall asleep. There may also be fears of the dark, sleeping in their own bed, not being able to fall asleep, sleeping away and nightmares.

How can sleep problems manifest themselves in teenagers?

Late night habits and early school hours create a conflict that often leads to sleep deprivation. Social and academic pressures can also contribute to sleep difficulties. Turning the clock, sleep problems such as insomnia, evening anxiety, delayed sleep phase and narcolepsy can also be problems.

What can sleep problems be in children with ADHD?

Children with ADHD can often face challenges with sleeping, such as difficulty falling asleep, restless sleep, and frequent awakenings. Their tendency towards overactivity and difficulties in following sleep routines can exacerbate these problems. A quiet evening routine, reduced screen time before bedtime, and a relaxing sleep environment can help.

How can sleep problems in children be treated?

Treating sleep problems in children requires good sleep hygiene with regular sleep routines, a calming environment and reduced screen time, complemented by physical activity and relaxation techniques. If challenges persist, it is important to seek professional help.

What is a child psychologist?

A child psychologist is a licensed professional with knowledge and experience in working for the well-being and mental health of children and parents.

What does a child psychologist do?

Child psychologists offer therapy and counselling, but also work with families in parental support and the whole family when needed. They also work with schools to create good conditions for the child.

Can I see a child psychologist online?

It is possible to have an online treatment via video. We have several child psychologists who work digitally at Lavendla.

Where can I turn if I or my child needs help from a child psychologist?

Depending on how old your child is, you can turn to different services, and you can also get help through parental counseling. At Lavendla, we have experienced child psychologists who can also help.

How does treatment with a child psychologist work?

Seeking help from a psychologist or therapist is an important step when a child is experiencing mental health difficulties or if you are having difficulties as a parent. Here is a brief overview of what treatment can look like:

First step: Initial consultation where the psychologist assesses needs through discussions with the child and parents.

Treatment plan: An individualized plan is developed, based on your specific situation and needs.

Types of therapy: Treatment method is adapted to the situation and may include play therapy for younger children, as well as talk therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for older children, which focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviours. Other methods such as family therapy can also be helpful.

Parental counselling: Parents receive guidance and support to better help their child at home.

Monitoring and adjustment: The treatment plan is continuously evaluated and adjusted as needed to ensure the best possible outcome.

Working with a psychologist can give you and your child the tools they need to manage their emotions and behaviors in a healthy way. At Lavendla, we have psychologists and therapists who can help make the difficult easier.

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Written by melissa

Melissa is a Certified Kinesiologist who focusses on a client-centred, holistic and integrative approach to health and wellness. She has extensive experience in managing stress, anxiety, fears, phobias and trauma in her clients. Melissa uses visual and auditory feedback to directly access and solve the cause of psychological stressors in the body so that optimal well-being and balance is achieved.