Sleep problems

We all sometimes have problems with sleeping, waking, or having bad dreams. If sleep issues are affecting you, we can help you tackle them.

If you’re having problems with sleeping, you’re not alone. Most of us do at some point, and for lots of different reasons.

Anxiety and worries

Whether you’re at primary school, a teenager or beyond, you may find yourself waking up in the night, or having difficulty getting to sleep in the first place.

You may be anxious or worried - about being alone, the dark, or imaginary scary monsters and ghosts. You might feel you want someone there with you as drop off to sleep or if you wake in the night.

Worries or anxieties can also be about:

  • Friendships or bullying
  • School work
  • Family relationships
  • Divorce or separation
  • Changes in routine such as a new school or moving house

Nightmares and bad dreams

Dreams help us process what is going on in our lives, including any fears and worries. These may manifest themselves as nightmares and are usually nothing to worry about. It helps to talk about bad dreams (or even draw them) to identify what may be causing them. Causes of nightmares could be as simple as something scary you saw in a film to more serious things such as bullying or someone hurting you.

Night terrors

These are more upsetting for parents or carers, as the person seems to be wide awake and terrified of something, but is asleep, and usually doesn’t remember them. They can reflect worry about something stressful going on at the moment or they may not. Night terrors are a phase that often passes quite quickly. 

Wetting the bed

Bedwetting can cause young people to wake up in the night. This might have a physical cause or be linked to worries and anxiety. Talk to your GP who can advise you about getting help

Altered sleep problems

If you tend to push boundaries and stay up late watching TV, gaming or staring at your phone or tablet screen, this may alter your sleep patterns.

It’s not uncommon for teenagers to reverse their sleeping patterns, staying awake late into the night and then feeling sleepy during the day.

This can interfere with school work and home life, and cause stress with parents. Have some screen-free wind-down time (reading a real book is ideal) before going to bed at a reasonable time each night.

Get help

Chat to your GP if your sleep problems continue for a long time, things you try at home are not helping, or if you are worried about an emotional or physical problem. Severe sleep problems can be a sign of depression. Young people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may also have problems with sleep.

For parents

If you are a parent or carer of a child or young person who has sleep problems, we can support you through our Parents Helpline. We are here to listen to you, and give you free, confidential advice and information.

Helplines and services available

YoungMinds Crisis Messenger

  • Provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK if you are experiencing a mental health crisis
  • If you need urgent help text YM to 85258
  • All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors
  • Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.


  • If you're in distress and need support, you can ring Samaritans for free at any time of the day or night.
  • Freephone (UK and Republic of Ireland): 116 123 (24 hours)
  • Email: [email protected]


The Mix

  • If you're under 25 you can talk to The Mix for free on the phone, by email or on their webchat. You can also use their phone counselling service, or get more information on support services you might need. 
  • Freephone: 0808 808 4994 (13:00-23:00 daily)
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