Sleep Disorders: Sleep Problems in Children

Last Editorial Review: 6/20/2005
The Cleveland Clinic

Children and adolescents need at least nine hours of sleep per night. Lack of sleep can have negative effects on children's performance in school, during extracurricular activities, and in social relationships.

A lack of sleep may cause:

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

Signs of Sleep Disorders in Children

Talk to your pediatrician if your child exhibits any of the following signs of a sleep disorder:

  • 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 Get a Good Night's Sleep

Establish a regular time for bed each night and do not vary from it. Similarly, the waking up time should not differ from weekday to weekend by more than 1 to 1 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 them in order to get them to sleep. If this is difficult, they should consult their pediatrician or sleep specialist.

Reviewed by The Sleep Medicine Center at The Cleveland Clinic.

Edited by Michael J. Breus, PhD, WebMD, September 2004.

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