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Childhood Insomnia: Dealing With it as a Parent

Childhood insomnia is becoming an increasingly more common occurrence, which often leads to disciplinary and behavioral problems as well as issues at school and learning difficulties. The only thing is that not all insomnia in children is easy to spot, and the resulting sleep deprivation can manifest itself in many different ways.



Sleep is incredibly important for children, even more so than for adults, as a child's growth and development depend on them getting adequate sleep. While adults only need 8 hours of sleep a night, experts believe that children need to get between 10 and 12 hours of sleep a night, depending on their age. 

Infants require even more sleep, but luckily most infant sleeping issues are short lasting and related to other factors such as illness. However, child insomnia can be caused by a wide variety of different things, and as a parent, it's important to know the signs that your child isn't getting enough sleep so that you can work together to understand the cause and find a solution.

Symptoms of Childhood Insomnia

While insomnia in adults pretty much always shows itself in extreme tiredness, fatigue, and difficulties concentrating, it can lead to a number of different emotional and behavioral changes in children, which are often misdiagnosed as a result of another condition. 

 

In fact, many researchers are starting to believe that a large percentage of children diagnosed with ADHD or hyperactivity actually have difficulties sleeping and that this is the cause of their hyperactive behavior and lack of concentration. 

 

childhood insomniaStill, there are also many other symptoms of insomnia in children, some of which are quite obvious while others are harder to spot. If you notice your child showing one or many of the following symptoms, you should discuss the problem openly and honestly with them.

Visit your pediatrician or doctor if you can't effectively identify or solve your child's sleeping problems, as the insomnia could be a result of some other health issue.

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Sudden irritability and unusual mood swings
  • Declining grades or getting into trouble at school
  • Aggressive or defiant behavior
  • Depression
  • Forgetfulness and memory problems
  • Short attention span
  • Tension, anxiety, or nervousness
  • Bedwetting
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Staying up much too late or waking up extremely early
Causes of Insomnia in Children, and What You Can Do

childhood insomniaThe causes of childhood insomnia are basically the same as insomnia in adults, and are quite wide ranging. Stress and anxiety are both major factors keeping both children and adults awake at night. While you may not think so, your child's life is equally as stressful as yours, if not more so. 

Luckily, you can easily find out if anything is worrying or stressing your child out by simply talking to them and asking about their life. Then you can sit down and discuss these things with them in a way so that they stop worrying so much and can relax enough to sleep well.

One of the most common causes of insomnia nowadays relates to our love of technology and electronics. Televisions, computers, video games, tablets and smart phones: pretty much anything with a bright, electronic screen.

All of these devices have a very stimulating effect on the brain, which can be addictive and can last for up to several hours after we've turned them off. We rely on all of these gadgets for our entertainment needs and it is wreaking havoc on our sleeping patterns, resulting in many sleepless nights.

If your child watches TV or uses the computer in the evenings, it could be the main reason they have difficulties sleeping. So, make sure that they turn off any and all distractions such as these at least an hour before bedtime. Instead, encourage them to take a warm bath or read a book, both of which will help make them sleepy and counter the negative effect that artificial light has on the brain.

Just as important is developing good sleeping patterns and a comfortable, healthy sleep environment. For starters, the bed should never be used for anything but sleep, in order to allow the brain to connect it directly with sleep. In fact, the child's entire bedroom shouldn't be used for playing or any activities other than sleeping if at all possible.

You need to make sure your child goes to bed at a time that allows them to get the required hours of sleep they need. While it may be difficult at first, people are creatures of habit and your child will eventually fall into a routine of going to bed at a certain time if you are strict about it. If their room is a quiet, comfortable place, free of distractions, your child should be able to sleep easier.

Caffeine and sugar can also keep a kid awake, so again, make sure they don't drink any soda or have any snacks that are too sugary for at least two hours before going to bed. If they're hungry or thirsty, make them something healthy like warm milk or tea.

childhood insomniaFinally, some childhood insomnia is caused by medical problems, both mental and physical. The sleeping problems could be due to another sleeping disorder such as sleep apnea, sleepwalking, or restless legs syndrome. 

Or it could be something as simple as itchy skin or growing pains. Childhood depression is also much more common than you'd think, and it often causes difficulties with sleeping. If your child suffers from any chronic illness or medical problem such as asthma, allergies, headaches, cramps, etc., this might also be behind their insomnia.

So, it is recommended that you take your child to the doctor for a full check-up of their physical health if you can't identify the cause of child insomnia. It could be a sign of some other medical problem, most of which can be treated or at least managed. Overall, your child's future depends on them getting the sleep they need now, so it's important to know how to spot the signs of insomnia and what to do about it.

 


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