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4/10/23 blog post

when to be concerned about insomnia

in this article:

what is insomnia?

Insomnia is when you have trouble falling asleep or can’t stay asleep at night. Insomnia is common in children of all ages. It can affect how our children act during the day, as well as parents and caregivers due to the lack of sleep they may be getting.

signs and symptoms of insomnia


Your child may be dealing with insomnia if they have any of the following symptoms:

  • Refusing to go to bed when it is time
  • Getting up frequently after being laid down
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Waking up frequently during the night and trouble falling back asleep
  • Not wanting to be in their own bed
  • Waking up earlier than normal
  • Difficult to wake up in the morning

If your child has any of the above symptoms at night, they may also deal with symptoms during the day. These symptoms may include:

  • Feeling very tired
  • Trouble concentrating or paying attention in school
  • Irritable
  • Lack of motivation
  • Behavioral problems including aggression or hyperactivity

what causes insomnia?

Most cases of insomnia in children is due to behavioral sleep problems. Sometimes, insomnia is brought on due to another condition, such as:

  • A sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome
  • Stress and mood disorders like anxiety and depression
  • Developmental condition like attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism
  • Asthma
  • Medications your child may be taking such as steroids or an antidepressant
  • Too much caffeine in your child’s diet

how is insomnia diagnosed?

If you think your child may be suffering from insomnia, your pediatrician may refer you to a pediatric sleep specialist for evaluation. During the evaluation, the sleep specialist will do the following:

  • Ask for a history of your child’s symptoms.
  • Physical examination.
  • Ask for a sleep log to be kept for a couple of weeks detailing sleep patterns including how much sleep the child got, how often they woke up in the middle of the night, etc.
  • You may also be asked for your child to wear a sleep tracking device.
  • In some cases, a sleep study may be done.

how is insomnia treated?

The good news is insomnia is very treatable! In most cases, insomnia can be treated with changes to your child’s routines and behaviors like limiting screen time and caffeine during the day. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend against using medications as a first line treatment for childhood insomnia. In very rare cases (when behavioral changes alone do not work and any other conditions affecting sleep are addressed), medication may be prescribed to treat insomnia.

If you think your child may be suffering from insomnia, schedule an appointment with one of our pediatric sleep specialists here

doctor Khalid Safi
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Khalid Safi, MD

division chief sleep medicine
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