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Insomnia in Children: Causes & Treatment

4 min read

It is a well known fact that sleep is necessary for the healthy growth of children. It is during sleep that most growth and repair of the body occurs.  Inadequate sleep causes mood changes and leads to trouble in thinking abilities. Good quality sleep is directly linked to a child’s physiological, cognitive and emotional development.
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a condition where the child has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep during nights  for the minimum number of hours required by their bodies. Sometimes it may mean that the child isn’t able to sleep throughout the night, sometimes it may also be that the child is waking up too early. In simpler words, it means sleeplessness.
Insomnia in Children
Can Children Have Insomnia?
Surprising but yes, children can also have insomnia. Children who do not have strict bedtimes may tend to stay awake longer and this may lead to sleeplessness.  How you would feel if you tried to fall asleep but couldn’t? Now imagine your child feeling the same! Insomnia in children is an important health concern that needs to be addressed immediately and carefully.
Is Insomnia Common in Children?
Insomnia is somewhat common in school going children with around roughly 27% sleeping for lesser time than required. It is estimated that around 25% of children will experience it sometime during their childhood.
What causes Sleep Problems in Children?
There may be many reasons for sleeplessness in children. Sometimes a scary movie or a bad dream might keep the child up. You needn’t worry if it is just this. If the child is unable to sleep for a week or more, then you should address it immediately.

Stress:  Stress isn’t just for adults anymore. Preschoolers get stressed about a new environment when joining a play school. Likewise young kids may feel insecure about a new sibling, shifting to a new place, parents fighting etc. There are many problems that may cause stress in children.
Sleep Disorders: Sleep Disorders such as sleep apnea may keep the child up during night as it is difficult for them to catch a breath and they keep waking up, or a reflux issue in which it is difficult to keep food down, restless legs syndrome where they keep on moving constantly may cause sleeplessness. Sometimes psychiatric reasons such as Autism, Asperger’s syndrome and depression may keep them awake.
-Caffeine: Drinking caffeine rich or fizzy drinks at anytime during the day may make children hyperactive and lead to sleeplessness.
-Medications: Anticonvulsants and antidepressants may cause sleeplessness as a side effect. Usage of corticosteroids and any other medication for ADHD may also cause sleeplessness.
Environmental Factors: Ever tried sleeping in a busy and noisy house? The lack of a comfortable atmosphere may also affect the ability of the child to sleep. Some reasons may include the mattress being rough, of there being too much noise, light or bad ventilation. These environmental factors may contribute to an inability to sleep.

How is Insomnia Diagnosed in Children?
Insomnia can be diagnosed in children by merely observing them. The diagnosis can be made at home by you or if not sure, by your Paediatrician. Some common symptoms may include:

  1. The child is tired all the time.
  2. Erratic behaviour
  3. Hyperactivity
  4. Being distracted most of the time
  5. Not sleeping after waking in the middle of the night
  6. Waking early
  7. Difficulty in falling asleep

Insomnia in Children
Children  Insomnia Treatment:
Managing insomnia in a child is easy once you follow the steps given below:
Setting up a Routine: Establishing a sleep schedule of putting your child to bed at the same time everyday will help in setting a routine.  You could start by winding down by involving the child in some calm activities such as colouring or reading. Also avoid sleeping during day time.
Comfortable Sleep Environment: Creating a soothing and calming environment for your child in their room will help set the mood.  Use of gadgets must be restricted and not allowed at least from two hours before bedtime. Inculcating these good habits from a young age will help them tremendously.
Behavioural Therapies: Consult your Paediatrician and ask about a Sleep Specialist with regards to information about various Cognitive and Behavioural Therapies that can be used to psychologically help in the long term.
Remove Clocks from the Bedroom: Watching time constantly will cause anxiety and make it harder to fall asleep. It may work to your benefit to remove all clocks from the child’s room temporarily or turn the clocks away so they cannot be seen.
Inculcate Good Sleep Hygiene Habits: By restricting time spent in bed to simply sleeping and not allowing reading books or doing homework, maintaining a regular sleep time, avoiding colas and chocolates and generally any food for at least an hour before bedtime, you can help your child sleep better.
We at Being The Parent hope this helps.

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