Your Local sleep experts

Childhood Sleep Issues: Symptoms and Potential Causes

by | Sep 27, 2023

Sleep is crucial for a child’s growth, development, and well-being. As a parent/guardian, you must be aware of potential sleep problems your child might face. Likewise, it’s important to understand the reasons behind their development. In our guide, we’ll delve into childhood sleep issues to discover common symptoms, potential reasons, and more. 

If you know your child is experiencing childhood sleep issues, save time and take a sleep assessment. The SleepWell team will review your answers and match your child with something that fits their needs.

6 Common Symptoms of Childhood Sleep Issues

Children’s sleep problems are more common than you might think. Identifying these problems early on can significantly improve a child’s quality of life. 

Let’s outline five key symptoms of childhood sleep issues. We aim to help you shed light on the potential challenges affecting your child’s sleep. Each of these symptoms could be an indicator of an underlying sleep problem. 

By understanding these signs and exploring their potential causes, you can be more knowledgeable on how to help your child. Ultimately, the goal is to help them get the restful sleep they need for optimal growth and development.

1. Difficulty Falling Asleep

Having difficulty falling asleep is a common symptom that various factors can cause. It could stem from anxiety, stress, or an irregular sleep schedule. 

Children struggling to fall asleep may toss and turn in bed or complain of being unable to relax.

2. Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

Excessive daytime sleepiness in kids can be a result of inadequate sleep during the night. A child experiencing this symptom might seem constantly tired, have trouble staying awake during the day. They may even fall asleep at inappropriate times. 

3. Nightmares & Night Terrors

Nightmares are vivid and disturbing dreams that can disrupt sleep and frighten a child upon waking. 

On the other hand, night terrors are intense episodes of apparent fear that occur during non-REM sleep. Unlike nightmares, children often have no memory of night terrors upon awakening.

4. Snoring or Labored Breathing

Snoring and labored breathing can impact sleep quality, leaving a child feeling tired and irritable during the day. 

It may also indicate sleep-disordered breathing, including conditions like sleep apnea. The sleep condition involves repeated pauses in breath during sleep, leading to fragmented sleep and oxygen deprivation.

5. Frequent Night Wakings

A child experiencing this symptom might wake up multiple times during the night, finding it difficult to fall back asleep. Frequent night wakings can disrupt a child’s sleep cycle and lead to fragmented rest.

6. Behavioral Problems

Sleep issues can contribute to behavioral problems such as mood swings, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and even hyperactivity. These issues can arise due to insufficient sleep affecting the child’s emotional regulation and cognitive function.

Potential Reasons for Childhood Sleep Issues

The next question is: what’s causing sleep issues in your child? When sleep issues arise, identifying the underlying causes is crucial for addressing them effectively. Let’s observe several potential reasons why children may experience sleep problems.

Food & Drinks

High-sugar and high-caffeine items can contribute to restlessness and difficulty winding down at night. Consuming caffeinated beverages or sugary foods close to bedtime can interfere with a child’s ability to fall asleep.

Medical Conditions

There are several medical causes of sleep issues in children, including asthma and chronic coughs, anxiety, chronic pain, and constipation. Addressing these conditions with proper medical care can lead to improved sleep quality.

Sleep Apnea

Organic sleep disorders in kids are also a common cause of sleep issues. Sleep apnea, bruxism, parasomnias, restless leg syndrome, and limb movement disorders may bring on these pediatric sleep disturbances. 

These disruptions can lead to poor sleep quality, excessive daytime sleepiness, and even behavioral issues. The best solution is to see if your child is a candidate for oral appliance therapy.

Irregular Sleep Schedule

Inconsistent bedtimes and wake-up times can disrupt a child’s circadian rhythm. That can make it harder for them to fall asleep and wake up naturally. A regular sleep schedule for children can promote healthier sleep patterns.

Stress & Anxiety

Children experience stress and anxiety, which can significantly impact their ability to sleep. Worries about school, friendships, or family situations can keep them awake at night. Open communication and strategies to manage stress can help alleviate this issue!

Screen Time

Exposure to screens before bedtime can affect melatonin production, the sleep-regulating hormone. Blue light emitted by screens can interfere with a child’s ability to fall asleep. It’s important to limit screen time close to bedtime.

Sleep Environment

A comfortable and conducive sleep environment is essential for quality sleep. Factors like room temperature, noise levels, and the comfort of the mattress and bedding can all impact a child’s sleep.

Frequently Asked Questions About Childhood Sleep Issues

What causes sleep problems in children?

Sleep problems in children can have various underlying causes, often intertwined and contributing to disrupted sleep patterns. The sleep environment, an inconsistent sleep schedule, technology use too close to bedtime, and other factors may cause sleep issues. 

How do I know if my child has a sleep disorder?

Children’s sleep needs can vary based on age and individual differences. If you’re concerned about your child’s sleep patterns or behaviors, it’s a good idea to document their sleep habits. Discuss your observations with your pediatrician, and, if necessary, seek a referral to a sleep specialist. 

A proper evaluation can help identify the cause of the sleep issues and guide you toward the appropriate treatments/interventions. It can ensure your child gets the restful sleep they need for their growth and development.

Does ADHD affect a child’s sleep?

Yes, research suggests that ADHD may cause sleep disturbances in some children. Children with ADHD may experience shorter durations of REM sleep and less sleep overall.

How do I fix my child’s sleep problems?

Making positive changes to your child’s sleep environment, routines, and habits can contribute to improved sleep quality over time. Remember, every child is unique, and what works for one might not work for another. It’s important to approach sleep solutions with patience and consistency.

Does magnesium help kids sleep?

Yes, magnesium is known to play a role in sleep regulation. It might help improve sleep quality in some cases, including for children. Magnesium is an essential mineral that is involved in various bodily functions. These include muscle relaxation, nerve function, and the regulation of melatonin production


In conclusion, understanding and addressing sleep issues in children is essential for their overall well-being.

Symptoms like difficulty falling asleep, daytime sleepiness, nightmares, snoring, and frequent night wakings can be signs of underlying problems. Factors such as screen time, stress, irregular sleep schedules, and the sleep environment can contribute to these issues.

To support healthy sleep patterns, consider alternatives to melatonin. These include establishing consistent bedtime routines, limiting screen time before bed, and creating a comfortable sleep environment. Consulting a pediatrician for guidance and addressing potential magnesium deficiencies can also be beneficial.

Each child is unique, and a combination of strategies tailored to your child’s needs can help improve their sleep quality. By taking proactive steps and seeking professional advice, you can ensure your child enjoys restful nights again. They’ll experience the full benefits of quality sleep for their growth and development.

Contact us!