How do I Recognize Insomnia in Children?

Erin J. Hill
Erin J. Hill
Watching TV late at night can contribute to insomnia.
Watching TV late at night can contribute to insomnia.

You may be able to recognize insomnia in children by noticing changes in their sleeping patterns. Since young kids are still developing proper sleep patterns, this can be hard to do. Anything that varies outside the normal range for your child may indicate a problem. Additionally, children who suddenly become afraid at night, those who wake frequently, those who seem tired or not well-rested during the day, and those who have trouble concentrating may all suffer from childhood insomnia.

A young girl. Insomnia in children can be caused by a number of issues.
A young girl. Insomnia in children can be caused by a number of issues.

The most obvious way to recognize insomnia in children is noticing that they remain awake long after lights are out, or if they awaken during the night and come into your room. Sometimes you may not notice anything, but there are subtle clues that may indicate trouble sleeping. Seeming unusually tired or unfocused during the day is one common symptom, and some children also become irritable or throw tantrums due to lack of sleep. Needing more frequent or longer naps during the day may also indicate trouble sleeping at night.

Children having trouble sleeping could be associated with a fear of the dark and nighttime.
Children having trouble sleeping could be associated with a fear of the dark and nighttime.

There are many different potential causes for insomnia in children. Much like adults, they can have trouble sleeping due to stress, illness, or for unknown reasons. If you suspect your child may be having problems sleeping at night, or you know he is due to frequent visits to your bedroom for comfort, your first course of action should be to ask him if there is anything in particular he’s upset or worried about.

Children with insomnia may be more prone to throwing temper tantrums.
Children with insomnia may be more prone to throwing temper tantrums.

You should also consider whether or not there have been any major changes in your household which may have caused insomnia. Moving to a new house, adding a sibling, or parents' divorce are all potential causes of insomnia in children of any age. If there is no known stress, you should have your child checked by a physician to rule out any medical causes for insomnia.

It is normal for young children to go through stages of being fearful of the dark and nighttime, so trouble sleeping could be associated with that. Try moving a sibling or family pet into the child's room, or using a nightlight, to see if that helps him sleep a little better. You may also consider allowing him to sleep in your room when he feels scared in a sleeping bag on the floor, or having one parent stay in his room until he falls asleep at night.

Sometimes there is no emotional or medical cause for insomnia in children. Drinking too much caffeine during the day, playing too actively within an hour of bedtime, and eating sugary foods may keep your child up at night. Restrict substances which may make sleep difficult, and do not allow him to roughhouse or play too actively in the hour before bed.

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    • Watching TV late at night can contribute to insomnia.
      By: Fenton
      Watching TV late at night can contribute to insomnia.
    • A young girl. Insomnia in children can be caused by a number of issues.
      By: Vera Kuttelvaserova
      A young girl. Insomnia in children can be caused by a number of issues.
    • Children having trouble sleeping could be associated with a fear of the dark and nighttime.
      By: Ilike
      Children having trouble sleeping could be associated with a fear of the dark and nighttime.
    • Children with insomnia may be more prone to throwing temper tantrums.
      By: Alex Yeung
      Children with insomnia may be more prone to throwing temper tantrums.