Reasons Your Child Can’t Sleep, Including You

Age Matters

Babies seldom sleep through the night initially. Newborns may sleep for 12 to 18 hours a day at random times during the first two months. Most babies achieve uninterrupted nighttime sleep by around 9 months, though it typically spans only five to six hours.

Dependency on You

Constantly rocking a baby to sleep can hinder their ability to self-soothe. Encourage independent sleep habits by putting them to bed when drowsy but not fully asleep, fostering self-soothing skills.

Fatigue and Routine

Toddlers and preschoolers need 11 to 14 hours of sleep daily, encompassing nighttime rest and naps. Establishing a consistent routine for bedtime, waking up, meals, and play is crucial for promoting sound sleep.

Separation Anxiety

It’s common for children to experience separation anxiety. Minimize encouragement through excessive talking, rocking, or additional feedings. By six months, gently comfort them without overly rewarding behaviors, aiding in self-soothing.

Bedtime Routine

A consistent bedtime routine helps signal sleep time. Initiating a wind-down sequence, such as a bath, story, snack, and lights out, aids in establishing a predictable routine. Begin this routine by the age of 4 months.

Bedtime Stalling

Children may attempt to delay bedtime with requests for more stories, drinks, or bathroom visits. Maintain the routine, respond kindly yet firmly, gradually reducing the duration of visits.

Insufficient Nap Time

Inadequate daytime napping can disrupt nighttime sleep for young children. Most babies require two to three naps, while toddlers typically benefit from at least one nap. Ensure naps are well-timed and not too close to bedtime.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Though rare, obstructive sleep apnea can impact children, causing snoring, labored breathing, and restless sleep. Surgical intervention or nighttime nose masks may be required for treatment.


Approximately 1 in 10 children snore, often due to various factors. If snoring affects sleep, consult a pediatrician to address potential issues.

Bad Dreams

Occasional bad dreams are normal. Comfort your child after bad dreams, maintain a soothing bedtime routine, and consult a pediatrician if the problem persists.


Sleepwalking can occur in children but is typically outgrown by adolescence. Gently guide sleepwalkers back to bed without waking them, ensuring a safe environment.

Health Issues

Allergies, asthma, teething, or other health problems like colic can disrupt a child’s sleep. Consult with a pediatrician for guidance and solutions.


Certain medications, such as cold and allergy medicines or ADHD drugs, may affect sleep. Consult a pediatrician before making any changes to medication.

Teen Body Clock

Adolescents experience shifts in their sleep cycle, becoming more alert in the evening. Accommodate these changes by allowing flexibility in homework schedules and later wake-up times.

Comfort Objects

Providing comfort objects like blankies, stuffed animals, or pacifiers can help young children feel secure and facilitate sleep.

Sleep-Inducing Environment

Create a conducive sleep environment by keeping the room dark, dressing your child in lightweight and comfortable clothing, and maintaining a quiet atmosphere.

Ignoring Fatigue Signs

Recognize signs of fatigue, such as nodding off at school, difficulty falling asleep, or waking up late. Ensure your child gets the recommended 10 hours of sleep for ages 5 to 10.

Screen-Free Bedroom

Eliminate screens from your child’s bedroom to promote a relaxing bedtime routine. Power down electronic devices before bedtime.

Stress Management

Stress can impact sleep. Encourage relaxation through deep breathing, warm baths, and a calm bedtime routine. Teach effective stress management techniques during the day to positively influence nighttime sleep.


  • American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery: “Fact Sheet: Pediatric Sleep Disordered Breathing/Obstructive Sleep Apnea.”
  • American Academy of Pediatrics, Pediatrics, November 2005.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics: “Sleep Position: Why Back Is Best.”
  • Calamaro, C. Pediatrics, 2009.
  • Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics: “Bed Time Can Be a Pleasant Way to End the Day.”
  • Mayo Clinic: “Insomnia in Children.
  • FamilyDoctor: “Nightmares and Night Terrors,” “Sleepwalking.”
  • Gary Montgomery, MD, medical director, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Sleep Center, pulmonologist, certified in sleep medicine.
  • Harvard Medical School: “Medications That Can Affect Sleep.”
  • HealthyChildren: “Pacifiers: Satisfying Your Baby’s Needs.”
  • Iowa State Extension Service: “Fears.”
  • KidsHealth: “All About Sleep,” “Why Do Teens Have Trouble Sleeping?” “Tips for Reducing the Risk of SIDS,” “Naps,” “Sleep Apnea,” “Snoring,” “Sleepwalking,” Sleep and Newborns.”
  • National Sleep Foundation: “Children and Sleep,” “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?” “Backgrounder: Later School Start Times,” “Pointers for Parents.”
  • Owens, J. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, February 2000.
  • University of Michigan Health Systems: “Sleep Problems.”

Leave a Comment