Is your child suffering from a sleep disorder?

It is not only adults who are affected by sleeping issues; they can affect anyone of any age. A range of factors can cause your child to experience difficulty falling asleep and it is important to find out what is affecting their sleep so they can receive the correct treatment.

Children can experience problems like nightmares, sleep apnoea, Restless Leg Syndrome, Parasomnias, Insomnia, or even nocturnal seizures. We know a lot of those terms sound scary. We understand. The staff at Auckland Sleep are parents as well and can personalize a treatment plan tailored to your child’s requirements. The first step to developing an effective and personalised treatment plan is to gather the right information via our Sleep Questionnaire.

How we treat children’s sleep disorders

Identifying a sleep disorder early gives your child the best chance of a swift recovery and avoids further complications later in their life. Due to the complicated and varied nature of sleep problems, we take a holistic approach to diagnosis and treatment.

Our multi-disciplinary team of specialists assess the severity of your child’s sleep problems, give a diagnosis and guide you towards the best treatment plan for your child. Whether they require clinical treatment, surgery, or behavioural therapy, our team of experts provides ongoing care throughout their journey.

Our goal is to address the root cause of your child’s sleep problems to provide long-term relief.

Learn about our approach

Common sleep disorders in children

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA)

Obstructive sleep apnoea occurs when a child’s airway is partially or entirely blocked while they are asleep. This results in brief, frequent awakenings throughout the night. Sleep apnoea in children is characterised by loud snoring, pauses in breathing during sleep, and odd sleeping positions.

Causes of OSA in children

The most common cause of sleep apnoea in children is enlarged tonsils and adenoids.

Other causes of sleep apnoea in adolescents include:

  • A small jaw or narrow facial bone structure
  • History of cleft palate or pharyngeal flap surgery
  • Obesity
  • Neuromuscular disorders

Treatment for OSA in children

Sleep apnoea in children is often treated with relatively routine surgery. No parent wants to see their child undergo surgery, but we recommend addressing the physiological causes of sleep apnoea while your child is young. A routine operation now ensures that problems do not amplify and cause further health issues in adulthood.


Sleepwalking involves getting up and moving around while still asleep. It is estimated that between 10% and 20% of children experience occasional sleepwalking. Occasional episodes of sleepwalking in children are not a cause for concern. Most children grow out of the habit as they mature into adolescence.

Causes of sleepwalking

There are a range of different reasons why children sleepwalk. Often, there is a family history of the behaviour. Other possible cause of sleepwalking include:

  • Overtiredness
  • An irregular sleeping schedule
  • Illness or fever
  • Going to bed with a full bladder
  • Changes in sleep setting (a new sleep environment)
  • Medications

Treatment for sleepwalking

Because the behaviour generally subsides over time, treatment for sleepwalking in children focuses on keeping the child safe during a sleepwalking episode. Tips for treating sleepwalking include the following.

  • Create a consistent sleeping pattern – make sure your child goes to bed at the same time each night.
  • Do not wake a sleepwalking child as it may frighten them – gently guide them back to their bed.
  • Ensure the sleeping environment remains consistent (i.e., in the same room).
  • Safety-proof the home for sleepwalking – lock doors and windows, and block stairways.
  • Ensure your child has used the toilet before bed.

If sleepwalking persists or becomes increasingly regular, it may be a sign of another underlying condition such as sleep apnoea or restless legs syndrome. If you notice sleepwalking becoming more frequent, get in touch with a sleep specialist.

Upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS)

Upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) is a discreet disorder that can be challenging to diagnose. Symptoms of UARS are similar to obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), although not all UARS sufferers exhibit snoring or signs of apnoea.

Causes of UARS

UARS is triggered when a narrowing airway inhibits sufficient oxygen flow.

The critical difference between UARS and OSA is that apnoea (pauses in breathing) is either not present or is very mild in UARS sufferers. Patients with OSA are often overweight while patients with UARS are often of an average weight.

Symptoms of UARS include fatigue, insomnia, daytime sleepiness, hypertension, poor concentration, and frequent waking.

Treatment for UARS

In children, the most effective treatment for UARS is the removal of the tonsils or adenoids. Other treatments include:

  • Orthodontic treatment
  • Oral appliances
  • Positional therapy

Signs your child may have a sleep disorder

If your child is exhibiting any of the following symptoms, it may be a sign of a sleep disorder:

  • Persistent snoring or stuttered breathing while asleep
  • Trouble falling asleep and staying asleep through the night
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Mouth breathing
  • Poor school performance and difficulty focusing
  • Hyperactivity and behavioural problems
  • Prolonged bed-wetting

At-home tips to improve your child's sleep

Sometimes kids just have a tough time sleeping. If you do not suspect any underlying disorder, there are many at-home methods to ensure they get a good night’s rest.

  • Establish a consistent bedtime and stick to it. Additionally, keep wake times the same on weekdays and weekends.
  • Create a calming routine around bedtime, such as a bath and a bedtime story.
  • Avoid any food or drinks containing caffeine.
  • Ensure the child always sleeps in the same room and that it is dark and well ventilated.
  • Remove any TV, computer, tablet, or phone from your child’s room and limit screen time an hour before bed.
  • Avoid letting a small child fall asleep in your arms and ensure you establish a bedtime routine early.

When to get help for sleep problems in children

If your child tires frequently or you suspect poor sleep is having an impact on their behaviour or ability to focus, make an appointment to see a sleep specialist.

If you are worried about your child's sleep disorder, make an appointment to see our sleep specialist.

If you want to learn how your child's sleep disorder is affecting them and what treatments can help, take our sleep test.

Auckland Sleep provides a multi-faceted approach to treating sleep disorders. Our goal is to provide the best possible sleep treatments, accessible to everyone in the community.