What can disrupt sleep in children?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Dad yelling when his Giants win isn't the only thing that can startle your child out of a sleep. Here are some other things that may, too:

  • Nightmares: They may start in infancy but won't be remembered or articulated until between two and five years old. Nightmares occur during stage 2 (REM) sleep, and they're the ones in which the kid wakes up, screaming in fear, and remembers both the dream and the comforting. It may take a little while for the child to fall back asleep.
  • Night terrors: These happen in a much deeper stage of sleep (stage 4). Typically, a child will wake up frightened, confused, sweating, and disoriented. He'll go back to sleep quickly and will have no memory of it the next morning. Unlike the parents! These are usually more common in boys than in girls (the opposite is true for nightmares) and affect less than 4 percent of kids.
  • Sleepwalking: This doesn't usually happen until about age five. Children who sleepwalk generally have no memory of getting up, walking around, or even eating. Though it's rare that this would be a repeated problem, it also reinforces the need to have safety latches and locks on doors, cabinets, and windows, plus gates on stairs.
YOU: Raising Your Child: The Owner's Manual from First Breath to First Grade

More About this Book

YOU: Raising Your Child: The Owner's Manual from First Breath to First Grade

There’s little doubt that parenting can be one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences you’ll ever have. But it can be plenty tough, too: Around the clock, you’re working to keep your...

Continue Learning about Sleep Basics

Tell Me Why…I Dream
Tell Me Why…I Dream
You’re in class and the teacher announces a surprise test. You haven’t studied, done homework or even been to class for weeks—and you may or may not b...
Read More
Can I make up for lost sleep on the weekend?
Carol Ash, DOCarol Ash, DO
We create "sleep debt" during the week, which many of us try to make up for by sleeping in on the we...
More Answers
What is wake propensity?
Alon Avidan, MDAlon Avidan, MD
Wake propensity explains how sleepy or awake you may feel during the day and at night. When you w...
More Answers
What's a Good Breathing Exercise to Help Me Sleep?
What's a Good Breathing Exercise to Help Me Sleep?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.