Feature Article

The sleepless child: approaches for the GP

Arthur Teng, Kit Chee



The GP has an important role in managing the sleepless child and providing advice and reassurance to the child’s parents. Often parents do not discuss their child’s sleeplessness with their doctor because they feel guilty or inadequate.

Key Points

  • Sleeplessness in children is common and often trivialised; however, its psychosocial effects cannot be overestimated.
  • When assessing the sleepless child, GPs should take a careful history and examination.
  • Sleep problems can be divided into disorders of initiating sleep, disorders of maintaining sleep and sleep phase disorders.
  • Other sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnoea, which can disrupt sleep, should be excluded.
  • Children need to learn to fall asleep alone without parental intervention.
  • Often parents of children who don’t sleep well need respite care and encouragement.