Sleep problems

We all have problems with sleeping, waking, or having bad dreams sometimes. 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
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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 may reflect worries 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.

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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. 

Our bloggers and Activists share their tips for dealing with sleep problems.

  • "Rather than looking at a phone until you're tired, relax by reading a book, writing a journal entry or listening to music."
  • "Put a soft blanket on top of your mattress as this can help you relax. You could try and wrap yourself up in the duvet as this can help with sensory issues."
  • "Things that help me are, listening to relaxing music, trying to stick to a time to go to bed and get up, smells you associate with calmness, limiting screen exposure and a notebook to jot down any worries."
  • "Give yourself time to wind down before bed. Try to do something relaxing or boring so that you'll feel tired."
  • "If like me you're on your phone right up until you sleep, it’s a good idea to download a blue light filter."

Laura’s advice: What to do if you’re struggling to sleep

We’ve all experienced that annoying feeling – you’ve had a busy day and all you want to do is go to sleep, but there seems to be a constant flow of thoughts swirling around in your brain that makes this simple task almost impossible. During my struggle with mental health, I tried to overcome this problem by establishing a routine with the hope of improving my sleep.

What seems to keep me awake (most of the time) is thinking about the long to-do list that I have to complete the next day. I always make sure that before I go to sleep, I write down a plan for the next day to allow my brain to switch off while trying to get to sleep.

When I was struggling with my mental health, I also used an app which helped me to meditate and clear my mind before going to sleep. I understand that meditation isn’t for everyone, so renaming it as ‘you time’ might be more suitable for you.

Even if you’re not struggling with your mental health, getting a restful night's sleep is key to living a healthy life.

To continue reading Laura’s tips visit ‘What to do if you’re struggling to sleep.’

For more advice on dealing with sleep problems, have a look at our blogs:

Our Activists and other young people share their experience of dealing with sleep problems:

It’s finding what works best for you. Definitely implement some sort of routine to wind-down before bed. You could try yoga, meditation, different breathing exercises or a hot bath.
If you experience anxious thoughts when you're trying to sleep, remind yourself that there will be plenty of time to think about those things in the daytime.
Don’t be scared to reach out. Insomnia is heavy and overwhelming. Not sleeping can affect your everyday life, even simple tasks. Wanting help, whether its therapy, medication, or anything else, is perfectly okay.
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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.

YoungMinds Crisis Messenger

Provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.

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.

Texts can be anonymous, but if the volunteer believes you are at immediate risk of harm, they may share your details with people who can provide support.

Text: YM to 85258

Opening times: 24/7


Whatever you're going through, you can contact the Samaritans for support.

Phone: 116 123

Email: [email protected]

Opening times: 24/7


If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.

Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.

Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.

Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.

Phone: 0800 1111

Opening times: 9am - midnight, 365 days a year

The Mix

Offers support to anyone under 25 about anything that’s troubling them.

Email support available via their online contact form.

Free 1-2-1 webchat service available.

Free short-term counselling service available.

Phone: 0808 808 4994

Opening times: 4pm - 11pm, seven days a week

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