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Reasons Why a One-Year-Old Cannot Sleep

author image Kerry L Williams
Kerry Williams has been working as a freelance writer since 1999. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including "Parenting Toddlers with Special Needs," "Christian Parenting Handbook" and online at Hard2Config. Williams holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Ball State University and an associate degree in surgical technology from National College.
Reasons Why a One-Year-Old Cannot Sleep
Teething Photo Credit djedzura/iStock/Getty Images

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that one-year-old toddlers are in need of about 10 to 13 hours of sleep per day. When your one year old is waking through the night or will not fall asleep, this has adverse effects on his health and demeanor. Gaining an understanding of why your child's sleep deficit is occurring will benefit him physically and mentally.

Reasons for Sleeplessness

Teething pain in toddlers can lead to irritability and sleeplessness but should be temporary. Your child may resist sleep if she is experiencing night terrors and if she has pain from ear infections. Children often experience pain during times of growth and these growing pains often occur during the night time, which can lead to sleeplessness. If your child is crying during the night and does not seem to want to be left alone, she may be experiencing separation anxiety, which typically occurs between eight and 14 months old. Children with this form of anxiety connect familiarity and safety with their parents.


If your toddler is experiencing flushed cheeks, fever, or is sucking his fist and fingers, he may be cutting teeth. You will know if he is experiencing episodes of night terrors if he flails, screams,sits up in bed, kicks, thrashes, sweats, breathes heavily, has a racing pulse or is fearful during sleep. Your child might pull on his ear, cry, have trouble sleeping, have balance problems or run a fever when he has an ear infection. Growing pains throb, are sharp and typically occur in the legs. Signs that your one-year-old is experiencing separation anxiety include nightmares, reluctance to attend day care and crying when a parent is not in the same room.


Over the counter gels and medications are available to assist in alleviating pain associated with teething but before medicating your child, try letting her chew on approved teething products such as rings or toys. If you make sure your child is not sleep deprived, lessen her stress and anxiety, lower fevers that occur during times of illness and put her to sleep in familiar surroundings this can decrease these episodes.

Vaccinate your child against the flu, have her perform frequent hand washing, avoid bottles during sleep time and keep her away from cigarette smoke to decrease amount of ear infections. Physicians usually prescribe antibiotics and ear drops to cure ear infections. Growing pains can not be avoided but massaging, applying a heating pad, and gently stretching the area that aches can help alleviate symptoms. Exposing your child to different caregivers can help her learn that she is safe when you are not present.


Sever illness should not result from teething and night terrors can be caused by conditions such as seizure disorders, head trauma and sleep apnea. Chronic ear infections may be a sign that your child would benefit from having tubes placed in his ears to help fluid drain. Keep in mind that afternoon and nighttime muscle aches can result from physical activity and are not necessarily growing pains. Separation anxiety is a normal part of development and plays a role in teaching your child how to master her environment.

When to Consult a Physician

You need to seek medical advice if your child has a high fever or diarrhea during teething. If night terrors are causing you concern for your child's safety, consider taking him to a sleep specialist. Ear pain is not always a result of infection and some ear infections are able to resolve without the use of antibiotics, but always have your child evaluated by his physician when he experiences pain. Contact your pediatrician if growing pains interfere in childhood activities or if separation anxiety lasts past the age of two.

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