about sleep problems
Many children and young people have difficulties with sleeping at some point, and there are different types of sleep problem.
When children are very young, sleep can seem to rule parents’ lives – most are exhausted and desperate for their babies and toddlers to sleep through the night. Some children do this from fairly early on, though they may have blips from time to time due to teething, illness or changes to their routine such as starting nursery or getting a new sibling.
However, many children continue to wake in the night or need a lot of help going off to sleep well into the primary school years. This might be due to anxiety or worries – about being alone, about the dark, or about imaginary things such as monsters or ghosts. Many children have trouble with self-soothing – they feel they need someone else there to help them drop off at bedtime or if they wake in the night.
Nightmares (bad dreams) are common in young children - children’s dreams help them to process what is going on in their lives, including fears and worries they may have. They are usually nothing to worry about, but it is worth seeing if your child can talk through their bad dreams, or draw them, just in case they are being caused by bullying or someone hurting them.
Night terrors, where the child seems to be awake and terrified, but are asleep, can be very upsetting for parents but the child does not usually remember them, and the stage generally passes quite quickly.
Bedwetting can cause children to wake up in the night. The cause may be physical, or linked to anxiety. The GP should be able to advise you about sources of help.
Older children often refuse to go to bed because they want to push the boundaries and prefer to watch TV or go on the computer. Teenagers can get into reversed sleeping patterns, where they are awake at night and very sleepy during the day. This can interfere with school work and family life and cause a lot of stress between young people and their parents.
Sleep problems can also be caused by worries or anxieties, including about
- Friendships or bullying
- Family relationships
- Divorce or separation
- Changes in routine such as a new school or moving house.