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Can Iron Deficiency Cause Sleeping Problems in Children?

author image M. Gideon Hoyle
M. Gideon Hoyle is a writer living outside of Houston. Previously, he produced brochures and a wide variety of other materials for a nonprofit educational foundation. He now specializes in topics related to health, exercise and nutrition, publishing for various websites.
Can Iron Deficiency Cause Sleeping Problems in Children?
Sleeping Photo Credit Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Getty Images

Iron deficiency, also called iron deficiency anemia, is a condition that occurs in circumstances that include insufficient iron intake, poor iron absorption and unmet increases in daily iron requirements. Children with iron deficiencies can develop a wide range of symptoms. However, sleeping problems related to iron deficiency do not commonly occur. Consult your child's doctor before treating an iron deficiency.


The human body needs iron for a variety of reasons, including transportation of oxygen in the bloodstream, oxygen storage and use in muscle tissue, and formation of substances called enzymes, which help with food digestion and play several other important roles. Iron deficiency ranks as the No. 1 nutritional deficiency in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children have relatively high iron needs as a result of rapid body growth, and infants and toddlers are particularly at risk for the development of an iron deficiency. Adolescent girls also have increased deficiency risks.

Iron Deficiency Symptoms

The U.S. National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus lists potential symptoms of iron deficiency in children that include weakness, shortness of breath, abnormally pale skin, headaches, fatigue, irritability, a sore tongue and diminished appetite. Additional potential symptoms include brittle nails, bloody stools, unusual food cravings and pale or slightly blue whites of the eyes. A child with an iron deficiency can also experience problems developing skills related to learning and social interaction. In mild cases of deficiency, a child may exhibit no symptoms at all.

Sleeping Problem Causes

The University of Michigan Health System lists potential causes of sleeping problems in children that include prematurity or other birth complications, colic, airborne allergies, gastroesophageal reflux, an uncomfortable sleeping environment, uncomfortable sleep clothing, light sleeping and pain from sources such as abdominal gas, teething or earaches. Additional potential causes include sleep apnea, tension in the household, separation anxiety, nightmares, bed-wetting, sleepwalking, teeth grinding, restless leg syndrome and learned reliance on a parent’s presence either at bedtime or when he wakes up during the night.


Review any potential causes of your child’s sleeping problems with her doctor. If your child has symptoms of an iron deficiency, treatment typically involves oral doses of an iron supplement. If your child can’t tolerate oral supplementation, her doctor may recommend an iron injection or use of intravenous iron, in which she'll receive a dose of iron through an IV. To avoid the potential for a deficiency, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you avoid giving cow’s milk to your child in her first year; instead, breast-feed your child or provide her with an iron-fortified formula. Consult your child’s doctor if you have additional questions related to iron deficiency and its potential symptoms.

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