Insomnia in children


Insomnia is a sleep disruption in which children have difficulties in falling asleep or staying asleep at night. Occasionally, the complaint is one of waking up too early. Insomnia complaints are overall linked to a feeling of non-restorative sleep and impairment in daytime functioning. Insomnia can be classified according to the duration (short- or long-term), severity, and frequency of the problem. Short-term insomnia may happen for just a few days to weeks and results from factors that will easily go through (an illness or a short-term medication). Long-term insomnia may happen three times a week for a month or longer.

What are the symptoms of insomnia?

Symptoms of insomnia include:
−Problems in sleep including difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep or waking up too early in the morning
−Tension/anxiety about going to bed and being able to fall asleep
−Feeling sleepy during the day
−Problems in school or disciplinary
−Irritability/mood swings
−Shortened attention span
−Problems in memory
−Making mistakes or having accidents

What results in childhood insomnia?

There are some possible causes of insomnia, including:
−Stress –  Excess worry and stress can lead to insomnia.
−Use of caffeine or other stimulants.
−Side effects of specific medications. For instance, drugs used for the treatment of deficit hyperactivity disorder can result in insomnia.
−Medical, psychiatric and other sleep disorders. Some medical disorders such as fibromyalgia, muscle cramps, heartburn can all lead to insomnia.
−Environmental factors. Noise, heat, cold, and light conditions in the bedroom can interrupt the sleep. Make sure the bed and mattress are comfortable and the bedroom is organized to decrease environmental interference. This includes the limitation on the use of electronics in the bedroom as well.

How is insomnia in children treated?

Treatment options for insomnia in children are:
−Make good sleep hygiene habits. Good sleep hygiene habits include remaining a frequent sleep schedule, staying away from caffeinated products 4-6 hours before bedtime, preventing tobacco and other drugs and building up a bedtime routine that does not have activities within an hour of bedtime (such as TV watching, electronic device, heavy homework)
−Create a comfortable sleep environment. Create a bedroom that is quiet, calm, comfortable (< 24oC), and dark (a nightlight is acceptable for children scared of a dark bedroom). Avoid arguments or discussion of anxiety-provoking matters just before bed time.
−Teach children how to relax. Deep breathing and positive mental imagining while lying in bed and other relaxation methods can be helpful to falling asleep.
−Remove clocks from the bedroom.
−Set bedtime to obtain the recommended amount of sleep. Regulate bedtime so that children get their recommended amount of sleep. This usually falls between 9 to 11 hours per night based on children’s age.
−Get up out of bed rather than toss and turn. Children should get up and involve in a very calm activity in relatively low light for 15-20 minutes instead of staying in bed and tossing and turning if they cannot sleep. After getting out of bed for 20-30 minutes or so, they may return and try to sleep. If after a 15-20 minute attempt does not work out, they should get up again and try the relaxing activity again. Repeat the cycle if needed.
−Consider behavioral therapy. Experts in behavioral and cognitive therapy are occasionally required to work with the child and their family to help using psychological methods without drugs. These approaches are very useful and overall better for the child in the long term. Your sleep expert is a great source for more information regarding your child’s insomnia.

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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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