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Underlying Issues Affecting Children's Sleep

Have your parenting instincts ever told you that your child’s sleep patterns are not quite normal? Many parents struggle with their child’s sleep and, while they understand it is not their fault, their support network often reinforces feelings of parental blame. You may have searched for answers without finding the right person to truly listen to your concerns.


a child mouth breathing can be an indication of an underlying issue

Traditional sleep consulting typically focuses on managing daytime sleep routines, optimising the sleep environment, establishing a pre-bedtime routine, and guiding parents on how to settle and resettle their child. While these elements can be beneficial and should be considered, they are often not the root cause of sleep challenges. Addressing these areas is merely complementary to any comprehensive plan.


If you have been following me for some time or have read many of my blogs, you will know that my approach involves identifying the underlying issues affecting your child’s ability to achieve quality sleep.


Sleep is a natural, biological process that should occur effortlessly. It is essential for human survival and should function as automatically as breathing, eating, and drinking. When sleep becomes difficult or falls outside the realm of normalcy, it often indicates an underlying issue impacting sleep quality and causing disturbances.


underlying issues will always negatively impact sleep

What are Underlying Issues?


An underlying issue refers to a fundamental or root cause that affects an individual's ability to achieve quality sleep. Unlike surface-level factors that can be easily observed and addressed, underlying issues are often more complex and may require a deeper investigation to identify and resolve.


When it comes to children's sleep troubles, the root causes often lie beneath the surface, hidden from plain sight.  We call them “underlying” because they are difficult to find and not obvious; it takes a trained professional to explore and identify the true culprit.


Understanding and addressing these underlying issues is crucial for developing effective solutions to improve sleep. These issues can manifest in various forms and may be physiological, medical or nutritional in nature. Let's explore that a little more...


1. Physiological: Physiological issues encompass a range of factors that can affect a child's ability to sleep peacefully. This includes disruptions in oral function, such as issues with tongue strength, posture, or breathing, as well as neuro-musculoskeletal issues that interfere with the nervous system or cause tightness and discomfort in the neck or jaw area.


2. Medical: Medical issues can significantly impact a child's sleep patterns. Common culprits include airway issues like tracheomalacia, laryngomalacia, enlarged tonsils, or adenoids, which can obstruct the airway and disrupt breathing during sleep.


3. Nutritional Factors: Nutritional deficiencies, gut health issues, and allergies or intolerances can also contribute to sleep disturbances in children. Digestive discomfort, allergic reactions, or imbalances in nutrient intake can all interfere with the body's ability to relax and enter into restorative sleep.


Of course, there can be a lot more to these categories; these explanations are not exhaustive.


a child sleeping with their mouth open

Identification and Management


On the journey towards improving children's sleep, identifying and addressing underlying issues is paramount. As a practitioner working with children's sleep, specialising in sleep quality and underlying issues, I've found that in 99% of cases, there's an underlying issue waiting to be uncovered and resolved.


These underlying issues are like puzzle pieces, fitting together to create a comprehensive picture of the child's sleep challenges. Once identified, addressing and resolving these issues becomes the first step towards restoring restful sleep for the child and their family, for long-term outcomes.


Improving children's sleep isn't singularly about implementing a bedtime routine or enforcing sleep rules. It's about taking a holistic approach that addresses the underlying factors causing to sleep disturbances. 


My specialised approach involves thoroughly screening each of my clients to identify and address underlying issues affecting sleep. Without managing these root causes, achieving long-term sleep improvements is not realistic. Once I determine the primary issue, I provide tailored guidance on the necessary steps to implement an effective sleep improvement plan.



I think an underlying issue is at play. What do I do next?


It is normal to hope for a quick fix to improve your child’s sleep, such as a few nights of crying until the desired sleep patterns are achieved. However, while this may provide temporary relief, it is not a sustainable long-term solution. Addressing sleep disruptions caused by underlying issues is often a more complex and lengthy process, but it ultimately leads to lasting improvements in sleep quality, supporting your child’s growth and development.


As part of each sleep improvement plan, I incorporate a level of sleep modification so we can make immediate improvements to offer relief and instil optimism as we work towards long-term positive sleep enhancements.


If you'd like to start your journey towards exploring underlying issues, you can access my free Underlying Issues Check List here:



If you would like to connect with me to discuss your situation, explore your concerns or further understand underlying issues and how I can help, you can book in for a free 15 minute Discovery Call:



Whichever path you take to start improving your child's sleep, I am here and able to help you, no matter the issue.


I would love to help you on your journey towards improved sleep.


Shereen xx


I'm Shereen Nielsen, a certified Sleep Consultant specialising in infants and children from birth to 15 years old. With over either years of experience, I've assisted over 4500 families in achieving better sleep. Additionally, I serve as a lecturer and mentor, guiding aspiring sleep consultants on their path to certification through my internationally recognised online Sleep Consultant Course.


Phone: +61419820474

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