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Solving Childhood Insomnia : Effective Strategies for Better Sleep

Getting enough sleep is crucial to the health and overall well-being of young children. However, children are now struggling with childhood insomnia and other sleep problems, which are hindering their growth and development. Many children find it difficult to fall asleep or remain asleep for long hours during the nighttime. Sometimes they wake up terribly at midnight and do not fall asleep again. Some children suffer from serious insomnia, night terrors, and sleep apnea, and all these impact their overall quality of life.

Let us read further and learn more about childhood insomnia and other sleep problems that encounter children, and also learn about several ways to help our children have a good night’s sleep.

Solving Childhood Insomnia : Effective Strategies for Better Sleep

How Much Sleep Do Children Need?

Children need more sleep than adults. Infants usually require twelve to sixteen hours of sleep, toddlers need at least eleven hours to fourteen hours of sleep, children their age of three to five years should sleep for at least ten to thirteen hours, and children in an age group of six years to twelve years should have nine to twelve hours of sleep time, while teens must have at least eight hours to twelve hours of sleep time.

Signs That Say a Child is Not Getting Enough Sleep

Signs that say a child is not getting enough sleep could be:

  • They are often irritated or over-emotional.
  • They have difficulty concentrating at school or home.
  • Usually, they struggle following conversations.
  • They find it hard to wake up and usually fall back asleep as soon as they have gotten up.
  • They often become drowsy.

If a child is showing any of these above signs, then they are not getting enough sleep, might be suffering from childhood insomnia, or any other sleep problems, and need immediate attention.

What Is Childhood Insomnia?

Childhood insomnia is real, just like insomnia experienced by adults. Children with this problem have trouble falling asleep, remaining asleep, or are not well-rested.

Apart from all these, children with childhood insomnia usually feel sleepy during the daytime. Some other symptoms of childhood insomnia include aggressiveness, mood swings, irritability, hyperactivity, depressed mood, reduced attention span, and memory issues.(1)

Childhood insomnia can occur in children due to various reasons. One common reason that most children do not get enough sleep is that they go to bed too late.(2) Some common causes of insomnia can be anxiety, depression, asthma, caffeine, obstructive sleep apnea, autism spectrum disorder, poor sleep habits, and night terrors or nightmares. Side effects of certain medications can also cause insomnia.

What are Other Sleep Problems That Children Face?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder that occurs when the tissues in the throat block the passage of air while an individual is sleeping. This can cause frequent, momentary lapses in breathing, which ultimately can disturb nightly sleep significantly.

Not only adults but also children suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. In children, common causes of OSA are enlarged tonsils, obesity, certain birth defects, or dental issues. Depending on the severity of symptoms, a pediatrician would recommend further evaluation, mostly by a specialist in sleep medicine.

Sleepwalking and Bedwetting

Sleepwalking, or Somnambulism is a disorder that involves walking in sleep. Bedwetting is the condition when children involuntarily urinate during sleep. Both sleepwalking and bedwetting are more common sleep problems in children than adults. Approximately 5% of children exhibit signs of sleepwalking compared with only 1.5% of adults, and about 15% of 7-year-olds experience bedwetting compared with a mere 0.5% to 1% of adults.(3, 4)

Although in most cases, sleepwalking and bedwetting tend to resolve as children grow older, however, it is critical to speak with a pediatrician if symptoms persist or if they are frequent.

Night Terrors

Night terrors are also serious sleep problems mostly affecting children. These are a type of parasomnia where the sleeper suddenly awakens frightened and panicked. Night terrors rarely occur in adults. However, about 30% of children go through night terrors.(5)

Ways To Help Your Children Have a Good Night’s Sleep

Childhood insomnia and other sleep problems interfere with natural sleep patterns in children and thus hinder their health and development. So, being parents we should try all the possible ways to help our children have a good night’s sleep.

Some of these ways include:

Ensure Your Child Uses Their Bed Only For Sleep: Encourage your children to use their bed only for sleep. Apart from this, let them have a pre-bedtime ritual, such as reading a book.

Make Sure That Your Child’s Bedroom Is Comfortable: Keep your child’s bedroom cool and avoid outside noise coming in by using white noise from a sound machine or a fan. Apart from this, do not overload children’s beds with toys or books all around, as that can distract them.

Make Sure To Keep The Same Sleep Schedule, Even On Weekends: Having the same sleep schedule every day will make it easier for children to wake up and fall asleep naturally.

Do Not Let Your Child Go To Bed Being Hungry Or Full: A light snack like a banana or warm milk before bedtime is a great idea. Do not give heavy meals within two hours of bedtime as it can keep kids awake.

Restrict Them From Using Phones or TV: Set limits with electronics like phones, tablets, video games, or televisions. This is because the blue light emitted from these devices can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm and make it difficult to fall asleep. Do not allow children to use these gadgets one hour before bed.

Encourage An Active Lifestyle: Regular exercise and physical activities prevent restlessness at night. So, keep children engaged with exercise at least for an hour every day. However, do not allow them to exercise vigorously within three hours of bedtime.

Spend Quality Time Together: Spend quality time with your children. Talk to them, take them on a ride, play with them, or simply go for a walk. Pay attention to your children. If you are a working parent, be available for them after working hours.

Medications And Therapies To Help Children With Childhood Insomnia And Other Sleep Problems


Sometimes medications might be essential and appropriate for treating various conditions that might keep your children away from sleeping well during the night. Some of these include:(6)

  • Antihistamines (rarely)
  • Clonidine (if children have ADHD or behavior issues that are keeping them awake)
  • Sedating antidepressants like Remeron and Elavil.
  • Risperdal (if they have autism)
  • Melatonin

NOTE: A prescription medicine is not the answer unless another diagnosis is the cause of childhood insomnia.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy could be beneficial for children having negative thoughts and worries that might be causing insomnia. This therapy helps children deal with negative thoughts about sleep so they can calm down, relax, and fall asleep. Cognitive behavioral therapy also helps children’s behavior that makes it hard for them to go to sleep and also replaces this with behavior that enhances sleep.

Final Words

Children need more sleep than adults. However, many of them do not get enough sleep due to various reasons, including childhood insomnia, and other sleep problems. We must take the necessary steps to help them have a good night’s sleep. If your children are suffering from serious sleep problems, make sure to consult with their pediatricians and follow their prescribed treatments. Apart from this, try to develop good sleep hygiene, and make them comfortable to sleep.


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 15, 2023

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