Updated: Aug 30
Worms, pinworms, threadworms, parasites...call it what you will, it’s not a very fancy topic of conversation and one that many parents cringe over. But, it is one area that certainly needs be considered if you have a child who is having sleep difficulties. Worms can negatively impact your child's sleep in a number of ways.
Pinworms are white, parasitic worms that can live in the large intestine of humans. They are about one-half inch long and present in around 50% of children.
Children can catch worms from accidentally getting worm eggs on their hands after coming into contact with them, or with worm-infected dust, toys or linen, and swallow them. Once swallowed, the eggs get into children’s small intestines, where they hatch. While the infected person sleeps, female pinworms leave the intestinal tract and lay their eggs on the skin around the anus. This can make your child's bottom very itchy. Worms can also get into girls’ vaginas and make this area itchy too.
The main point around pinworms is that since they are nocturnal, it is their heightened activity at night which causes itchiness, discomfort and restlessness. It is believed that pinworms are most active around 3-4am and the presence of pinworms triggers the immune system which leads to a spike in cortisol. For obvious reasons, this further leads to disrupted sleep and reduction in sleep quality.
Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is another significant presentation in children who have a pinworm infection. It is believed that this occurs due to anxiety and restlessness caused by the toxins and waste released by the parasites into the child’s body.
Considering the poor sleep quality from the disruptions worms bring at night, there is no wonder that children will end up irritable and grumpy during the day.
Signs and symptoms of a pinworm infection are:
Waking around 3-4am
Scratching their bottom
Bruxism (teeth grinding)
Irritability and behaviours changes
Bedwetting or frequent urination
It’s hard to know if worms are a true issue for your child and although there are common practices recommended by health care professionals to check the surety, if you are concerned, it is best for you to seek the advice of your GP or pharmacist.
Treatment of pinworms is simple enough and can usually be managed by an over-the-counter medicine. Although to bring complete success, as part of your treatment plan, you will need to wash:
cups and bottles
under your child’s nails
It is also recommended that you treat every single family member, whether or not any other member of the family is presenting with symptoms of worms. This is because worms are spread extremely easily from person to person so it’s imperative that you address all aspects of the spread of pinworms. It is also suggested that you repeat this treatment in around 2 weeks.
For ongoing and persistent worms, I always refer my clients to a child Naturopath to ensure that you adequately rid of the pinworms completely. I refer my clients to Ashlee Yates at Nurtures Children’s Health for any natural remedies.
If you would like to connect and chat about your child's sleep, you can book in for a 15 minute discovery call.
Forever bringing sleep to families,
My name is Shereen Nielsen and I am a certified infant and child sleep consult, working with children aged birth to 12 years. I am also a lecturer and mentor for students on their journey towards becoming a Sleep Consultant, through my on-line internationally recognised sleep consultants course.
If you would like more information about my services please contact me: