Good Sleep vs Bad Sleep: How Parents Can Tell the Difference

Good Sleep / Bad Sleep and How Parents Can Tell the Difference

TeamPediatric Dentistry

When a child is a new patient, I look at much more than their teeth. Their eyes tell me a lot, and so does their demeanor. I ask the parent how the child is sleeping. They wonder why their orthodontist would even ask. Some parents are very aware that sleep is a problem, but most say their child sleeps fine, or as well as can be expected.

Then I ask if their child snores, or wakes up with their head at the foot of the bed, or if they can hear them breathing at night. And often they smile and nod, like that’s pretty normal, and they assume that’s just what kids do. That’s when I recommend they read Sleep-Wrecked Kids by Sharon Moore, and start a conversation that could change their child’s life.

Most people don’t really know the difference between good sleep and bad sleep, unless the latter becomes blatantly problematic. Good sleep is defined as quiet, uninterrupted sleep for the recommended number of hours per day for the person’s age, and waking refreshed. 

Anything other than that falls into the bad sleep category. Snoring, restlessness, waking in the night, etc. is bad sleep. Sleeping the recommended number of hours, but with restlessness or snoring is not good sleep. Quiet, uninterrupted sleep that is not long enough is not good sleep. Your child (and everyone) needs the quality and quantity of sleep.

Why is Good Sleep so Important?

The brain does not actually go to sleep at night as scientists once thought. In certain stages of sleep, it’s revved up, working hard to process the day, remove toxic waste, supply nutrients, regulate hormones and perform other critical tasks. It’s very busy and has a lot to accomplish – including fabricating dreams which are important to problem solving abilities. Interrupt the sleep cycles and things go awry. 

Bad sleep brings on more than fatigue and grumpiness. It hampers growth and development. It causes behavioral problems. It literally lowers IQ scores. Over time, bad sleep can lead to more serious health conditions. 

What if Your Child has Bad Sleep?

Let’s figure out why. Is there a sleep disorder or just disordered sleep? As an orthodontist, I check the airway to see if there’s a breathing issue. That’s an easily diagnosed physical issue that can be corrected with jaw alignment. Sometimes there are layers of reasons a child has bad sleep, and we need to address each one. Your child may need a more regular routine, a quieter environment, better diet, or potentially some type of therapy. The issue is solvable, and is well worth figuring it outt. The whole family benefits when the child gets good sleep.

How Much Good Sleep Does Your Child Need?

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, this is the quantity of sleep needed in a 24-hour period. The total is a combination of nighttime and naptime for the nappers.


Newborns 0 - 3 months 
Infants 4 - 12 months
Toddlers 1 - 2 years
Preschoolers 3 - 5 years
Children 6 - 12
Teens 13 - 18
Adults 18+


14 - 17
12 - 16
11 - 14
10 - 13
9 - 12
8 - 10
7 - 9

Getting Your Child’s Airway Checked

I routinely check my patients for airway issues including obstructive sleep disorders and sleep apnea. I’m passionate about children and their wellbeing, including   how sleep deprivation affects them. I want parents to be aware. If you have concerns about your child’s sleep, please schedule an appointment and let’s take a look.