Many kids wake up at night, especially younger ones, and most of the time, it is because of non-medical reasons. However, some children do have underlying medical problems interfering with their sleep which require further investigation.

Here’s a short (and by no means complete) list of some common medical conditions that can interfere with your child’s sleep:

  1. Food allergies. These can appear in a variety of ways, including increased spitting-up, bellyaches, and hives. If you’ve recently introduced your baby to a new kind of food, this could be the reason he’s not sleeping as well as he was just a short while ago
  2. Gastroesophageal reflux (spitting up), can irritate the esophagus and cause significant discomfort, leading to awakenings
  3. Asthma. One of the signs of poorly-controlled asthma is cough that wakes you up at night.
  4. Environmental allergies. These can cause nasal stuffiness, post-nasal drip, and mouth breathing, all which can be uncomfortable and cause your child to wake up. In some cases they may even trigger…
  5. Obstructive sleep apnea. This is a condition in which the soft tissues at the back of the throat collapse, preventing proper air flow to the lungs and leading to choking. Children who suffer from this often snore and gasp during sleep
  6. Eczema. Studies of people with eczema have found they tend to rate the sleep disturbances as being second only to the itching as most disturbing

As a general rule of thumb, pain which awakens a child (bellyache, headache, pain in a limb, etc.) needs to be taken seriously and discussed with his or her pediatrician.


Dennis Rosen, M.D.

Help your child get a great night’s sleep with my new book:

The Harvard Medical School Guide to Successful Sleep Strategies for Kids

About the Author

Dennis Rosen, M.D.

Dennis Rosen, M.D., is a pediatric pulmonologist and sleep specialist who practices at Boston Children's Hospital.

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