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  • Writer's pictureCAFF Team


Updated: Oct 31, 2023

According to a 2007 report from the US National Library of Medicine, sleep issues have become a prevalent issue among school-aged children. Poor sleep health or not enough sleep affects concentration, memory, and behavior, making it harder for your child to learn. Children who don't sleep well are more likely to feel sleepy during the day and to have difficulty learning.

healthy sleep habits for children

The importance of sleep for your child's mental and physical health cannot be overstated. But if your toddler is having trouble sleeping, you aren't the only one. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that sleep problems affect 25% to 50% of children and 40 percent of adolescents.

Study after study has shown that kids who get an adequate amount of sleep have better attention, behavior, learning, memory, and overall mental and physical health.

There are a variety of things that can work against your child having a restful and restorative evening of sleep each night including their activities, what they eat, and how they breathe.


It should come as no surprise that what a child eats throughout the day can play a role in how well they sleep at night. When they consume large amounts of sugar or caffeine, for example, they are more likely to have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep at night.

What they drink also impacts their sleep quality. Getting high-quality, restorative sleep starts with how much water they intake throughout the day. A child who is overly thirsty at night is most likely not staying hydrated enough during the day. You can help your child maintain a proper hydration balance by:

  • Giving them a water bottle filled with water to sip on throughout the day

  • Making water or milk their primary beverages of choice instead of sodas or fruit juices

  • Increasing their intake of water-heavy fruits and vegetables such as melons, strawberries, peaches, oranges, celery, and broccoli

  • Offer ice chips or popsicles mixed with milk for added water or fluid

A child who is dehydrated will often exhibit early warning signs including feelings of being overly and excessively thirsty, lightheadedness, a dry mouth, or passing urine less frequently.

Take your child to a hospital emergency department straight away if they: have symptoms of severe dehydration – they are not urinating, are pale and thin, have sunken eyes, cold hands and feet, and are drowsy or cranky.

There are many foods that children can consume throughout the day, during meal times or snacks, that will also help support restorative sleep at night:

  • pistachios

  • cheese and crackers or an apple with a slice of cheese

  • nut butter

  • oatmeal

  • cherries

  • plain yogurt and fresh fruit

  • warm glass of milk with whole-grain toast


Along with what they eat and drink, there are several things parents can do to help create good sleep hygiene for their children. One of the first steps is to create a consistent bedtime routine.

Creating a bedtime routine for younger children may include:

  • Turning off computers and iPads, televisions, and video games an hour before bedtime

  • Having a bedtime snack away from activity in order to allow your child time to wind down before bed

  • Taking a bath, brushing teeth, and putting on pajamas at the same time every night

  • Picking a stuffed animal or security blanket out for the night

  • Placing a glass of water by the bed

  • Reading a story, singing a lullaby, praying, or sharing a few minutes of one-on-one time with your child while you tuck them in

It's always better to put your child to bed when he or she is sleepy, not already asleep. By doing so, they learn how to fall asleep by themselves. You should walk preschoolers back to their beds if they wake up in the middle of the night. It's advisable not to let infants sleep in your bed because co-sleeping increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.


Sometimes there can be temporary inflammation in a child's upper airway that leads to soft tissue swelling leading to increased resistance to air movement. This can be from allergies, acid reflux, or smoke exposure. Other times, the issues can be long-term caused by airway dysfunction, upper airway narrowness, or a fully blocked airway during sleep.

There are differences between pediatric obstructive sleep apnea and adult sleep apnea. While adults usually have daytime sleepiness, children are more likely to have behavioral problems. The cause in adults is often obesity, while in children it's often larger than usual adenoids and tonsils. The adenoids are two small pads of tissue found in the back of the nose. The tonsils are two oval-shaped pads in the back of the mouth. ~ Mayo Clinic

Unfortunately, many children with sleep issues are misdiagnosed with ADHD or other issues when, in many cases, the underlying issue is that the child has a pediatric airway disorder. Airway disorders include a wide variety of conditions that affect a child’s breathing passages. Pediatric airway disorders can result from issues, blockage, or malformities to the nose, throat, trachea, and bronchi.

Mouth breathing, sleep-disorder breathing, and snoring can disrupt brain development causing attention, behavior, and learning issues for children. An often overlooked group of symptoms associated with childhood airway disorders include bed-wetting, nightmares, sleepwalking, and colic.


Poor sleep hygiene can be caused by a number of factors, including undiagnosed airway disorders.

If, after adjusting your child's habits to foster better sleep hygiene your child is still having issues sleeping, consult your pediatrician or airway dentist. It is possible that your child is suffering from an undiagnosed airway disorder.

how does your child sleep?


Sleep Wrecked Kids by Sharon Moore

Kids often suffer unknowingly from the consequences of sleep problems because their issue is frequently missed or dismissed, by both health professionals and parents.

Sleep disorders are a major public health issue that can kick-start a lifetime pattern of health, behavior, and learning problems. Sleep Wrecked Kids guides parents towards good sleep as the norm, allowing themselves and their children to grow and thrive.

Speech pathologist and myofunctional practitioner Sharon Moore teaches parents why ‘bad sleep’ is connected to a myriad of health problems, what ‘good sleep’ actually means, how to identify red flags for sleep problems, how to improve sleep quality by improving airway health, and so much more! Parents are empowered to not only get more sleep themselves but also to help their children get the sleep they need―every night.

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