What I Wish I Had Done with My Poor Sleeper

teenager sleep problems
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My first son was always a great sleeper, even as a newborn. And now that he’s a teenager, he’s still able to go to sleep and get a full night’s rest. My youngest son is a completely different story. He was a poor sleeper as a baby and still struggles as a teenager. 

Here’s my advice to parents with young children who aren’t sleeping well: Get to the root cause and correct it when they are young, not as teenagers! It may not be a behavioral issue. Your child may be having a health issue that could be corrected, oftentimes very easily. 

Symptoms I Wish I Hadn’t Ignored

I always thought he was an “okay” sleeper who just wanted to stay up late. Or wanted one more tuck-in. Or one more drink. I thought those middle-of-the-night wakings were just bad dreams. Or wanting to be close to me. 

Here are some of his health concerns that I wish we had considered when he was a toddler: 

  • Mouth Breathing (all the time, not just when sick or allergies)
  • Snoring
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Trouble staying asleep
  • Awake for the day very early 

Next Steps

We found a lot of resources in our community that can help kids sleep better. And many of them are not what you might expect! We talked to several health professionals to create a plan that worked well for our family. 

  • Dentists (This would be one of the first experts I would contact in the future!) 
  • Sleep Clinics
  • Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctors
  • Pediatricians (Helped us learn that there was a concern and next steps)
  • Chiropractic Care (We used a Chiropractic specialist who helped with the shape of his mouth) 
  • Cranial Sacral Therapists
  • Mental Health Therapists (We utilized EMDR to help him process through a past car accident that also kept him awake at night.) 

Other Sleep Tips

We had to spend some time trying to figure out if his sleep issues were physical, emotional, or behavioral. Here are some ideas to help you get started. 

  • Keep a sleep log to show healthcare professionals.
  • Start early! Consult with a pediatric sleep coach (as long as baby is over 6 months old). I’d highly recommend finding someone local that will work 1:1 with your family and not a national “one size fits all” program. (This is coming from my experience as a postpartum doula). 
  • Create positive sleep routines. For us, that means having a sound machine, eye mask, water bottle, comfy pjs, comfy pillow, and being at the right temperature. 
  • Be healthy! This is common sense but a good reminder that limiting screens and junk food at night is a great way to improve sleep quality for kids (and their parents!) 

While I think his sleep has improved greatly, I know he still struggles at times. It’s much harder to see improvement as a teenager than it would have been if we started when he was a toddler.

My purpose in sharing this information is simple: if your child is struggling as a sleeper, it might be a good idea to look into any health issues that may be occurring. 

Does your teenager have sleep struggles? 

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Katie Nyberg
I am married to my high school sweetheart, Wes, and we have two energetic boys who are active in hockey, cross country, choirs, bands, and track. Our family loves to explore Des Moines, travel around the country, and do anything sports related together! I own a birth and postpartum doula agency called The Iowa Baby Ladies that supports families in Central Iowa. We love serving mothers in our area as they grow, birth, and mother their babies with confidence!


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