Insomnia in Children

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Insomnia is a sleep disorder that can be denoted by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. Children spend a major part of their lives asleep. In fact, in infancy and early childhood, the developing brain seems to need more time asleep than it does awake. This emphasizes the importance of sleep in the overall well-being of a child. Children may suffer from lack of sleep simply by not sleeping for a sufficient number of hours or they may lack good quality sleep.

Unfortunately, even as the scientific literature on childhood Insomnia rapidly advances, there are still gaps in the delivery of this knowledge to the end user (the child). For instance, only about half the doctors taking care of children address sleep-related issues in their clinics and well-trained pediatric sleep experts are still a rarity.

What are the implications of Child Insomnia?

Insomnia in children may lead to daytime moodiness, irritability, lack of focus in class, sleepiness in school, inability to get up in time for school and significant behavioral and learning problems. Some Insomnia’s are serious enough to cause adverse cardiovascular and metabolic effects as well as failure to thrive.

How common are they?

Insomnia are common in children, but often are under recognized. Sleep disruptions in some form are seen in as many as 25 to 30 percent of infants and children. They may range from inadequate sleep, bedtime settling problems and sleep walking to sleep apnea and narcolepsy. These disorders become obvious as symptoms that are easily misleading to the casual observer.

What causes Insomnia in children?

The cause of Insomnia is not always clear and sometimes more than one reason is thought to be a factor. Some Insomnia is considered developmental. For instance, nighttime settling issues are common in infants and toddlers, while sleep terrors and sleep walking are seen in older children. These disorders often resolve with time and require mediation only if they are particularly alarming in frequency or worrisome in behavior complexity.

In other disorders, a well known component plays a strong role. These may include bedwetting, restless legs and sleep apnea. Sleep apnea in premature babies is an issue that usually goes away with maturity. This is different from sleep apnea seen in the older, snoring child, where large adenoids and tonsils, upper air way allergies, abnormal dentition, cranio-facial abnormalities and obesity all may play a significant role.

Micronutrients such as folate and iron seem to be crucial in limb movement disorders. Many other sleep disorders, including insomnia and daytime sleepiness, can be effected by external factors such as the home and bedroom environment (TV, cell phones, electronic gaming) medications, social stress,

(Including drugs of abuse) and even seemingly innocuous substances like caffeine and nicotine.

Psychiatric, neurological and developmental disorders, if present, often reciprocate intimately with sleep problems. Sometimes, treating one sleep disorder (e.g. sleep apnea) may benefit another (e.g. sleep walking).

How can I determine if my child has Insomnia?

If your child has difficulty sleeping, discuss the matter with your pediatrician. Your child may benefit from a referral to a pediatric sleep doctor to further diagnose the problem.

How can you treat Insomnia in children?

Insomnia treatment in children decisions, depend on the cause. Insomnia in general can be treated in various ways using surgery (e.g., obstructive sleep apnea), micronutrient supplementation, bright light therapy or medications.

Behavioral techniques and adjustment of children’s sleeping schedules can be helpful in managing many instances of Insomnia. Not only can psycho-social issues be the cause of Insomnia, but they may be the result of sleep disorders as well. Therefore, it is not surprising that psychological, behavioral interventions (with or without medications) and cognitive intervention can be very beneficial in some cases.


Author: Bibian Okoye

A Retired Chief Nursing Officer, PGDip IHM

4 thoughts on “Insomnia in Children”

  1. This information is so helpful. I’m always concerned when I keep my grandson, whose an active toddler that never sleeps it seems. Well, he might settle down for a sound sleep sometime after midnight. Which I’d consider, much too late for a kid. Especially when he misses every nap opportunity, due to his will to wiggle and talk nonstop, lol. It seems he mentally refuses to settle for sleep, even when boundaries are set. He loves to stay awake, as if he’s missing out on something. I’m a bit embarrassed to confess, the only way a nap during the day has worked, is when I take him for a ride in the car. That relaxes him, and it gives me joy to see him settle… But my car doesn’t run off water. So he’s averaging about 6 to 7 hours of sleep per day, usually without naps. On a good day he might get in 8hrs without a nap, but that’s seldomly. Hey, is this even normal for a kid? He gets probably the same amount of sleep I do, which I don’t feel is enough for myself even. Thanks for your great info, I will consider your tips given.

    1. 6 to 7 hours of sleep for your kid is fine. Sleep is really important for growing children. It helps in the development of their brain cells.Your child’s brain needs sleep to restore resources that were used up during the day. A well-rested brain can solve problems, learn new information and enjoy the day a lot more than a tired brain. Some areas of your child’s brain are even more active while they sleep

  2. Its really good that someone has addressed this issue as it is an issue for children.

    My youngest stopped having daytime naps when he was one and half which was really hard however he always slept like a log for 12 hours a night normally and was and still is a very deep sleeper.

    Another issue that may cause the insomnia in older children is video games and TV.

    How many children are sent up to bed with a video to watch on the TV or tablet? This is known to prevent sleep as it effects the Brain.

    Whats your view on this?

    1. these days so many factors effects the rate of our children,

      hormonal time shift – puberty hormones shift the teenager’s body clock forward by about one or two hours, making them sleepier one to two hours later. Yet, while the teenager falls asleep later, early school starts don’t allow them to sleep in. This nightly ‘sleep debt’ leads to chronic sleep deprivation

      using screen based devices – smart phones and other devices used around bed time reduce sleep time. Teens who put down their smart-phones an hour before bed gain an extra 21 minutes sleep a night, (that’s one hour and 45 minutes over the school week) according to a study by Vic Health and the Sleep Health Foundation

      hectic after-school schedule – homework, sport, part-time work and social commitments can cut into a teenager’s sleeping time

      leisure activities – the lure of stimulating entertainment such as television, the internet and computer gaming can keep a teenager out of bed.

      light exposure – light cues the brain to stay awake. In the evening, lights from televisions, mobile phones and computers can prevent adequate production of melatonin, the brain chemical (neurotransmitter) responsible for sleep

      vicious circle – insufficient sleep causes a teenager’s brain to become more active. An over-aroused brain is less able to fall asleep.

      social attitudes – in Western culture, keeping active is valued more than sleep

      sleep disorder – sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome or sleep apnoea, can affect how much sleep a teenager gets.


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