There are a variety of reasons why sleep is so important, for both children and adults. Children require adequate sleep in order to maintain good health and function properly throughout the day.
Insomnia is a term used to describe difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Sleep disorders, while seemingly less serious than other health conditions, can be a source of great distress if your child is one of the many experiencing symptoms.
Some studies have found a correlation between poor sleep and poor grades in children while others have shown an increase in anxiety disorders among those with child insomnia. In order to best help your child overcome their insomnia, you should first familiarize yourself with the symptoms associated with this condition as well as a variety of methods that may help them cope with these symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of Child Insomnia?
Children and adults both experience a range of symptoms when faced with too little sleep. Aside from a general tiredness from a lack of sleep, some other symptoms associated with child insomnia may include:
- Trouble falling asleep
- Waking up during the night
- Rising too early in the morning
- Feelings of tiredness upon waking
- Problems with concentrating
- Mood swings
- Memory problems
As a parent, watching your child experience these symptoms may be alarming. Document any symptoms so you are well prepared when discussing your child’s sleep habits with their doctor.
What Are the Different Types of Insomnia?
Determining what type of insomnia your child has can lead to a better method of management. Typically, there are two different types of insomnia: primary insomnia and secondary insomnia.
Primary insomnia: People with primary insomnia experience sleep issues that are not directly related to any other health condition.
Secondary insomnia: People with secondary insomnia experience sleep issues as a result of another health condition like depression, cancer, asthma, heartburn or any number of other health issues. Disrupted sleep patterns can also be the result of medication or a particular substance, such as alcohol.
Acute vs. Chronic Insomnia
Insomnia can also be categorized by how often it occurs and how long it lasts. Short-term insomnia is referred to as acute insomnia while insomnia lasting a long time is called chronic insomnia. These conditions can come and go, and there may even be periods when your child experiences no sleep issues at all. Acute insomnia, for example, may last one night or a few weeks. Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, must occur at least three nights per week for a duration of a month or longer.
There are a variety of reasons why people experience acute insomnia. Some of these can include:
- Significant stress
- Physical or emotional discomfort
- Environmental factors such as light, noise, or extreme hot or cold temperatures
- Certain medications, including those that treat colds, allergies, high blood pressure, depression or asthma
- Disruptions to their normal sleep schedule
Some causes of chronic insomnia may include:
- Anxiety or depression
- Chronic stress
- Discomfort or pain at night
How Is Insomnia Diagnosed?
It’s important to speak to a healthcare provider if you believe your child is experiencing insomnia. Getting a proper diagnosis may entail keeping a sleep diary, a physical evaluation, and a run-down of your child’s medical history. Others may interview you about details of your child’s sleep habits, and he or she may even be referred to a sleep center for additional tests that may help pinpoint the root of the insomnia.
How Can I Help My Child Manage Insomnia?
If you notice insomnia has become a pattern for your child, or they often appear fatigued or unrefreshed, it’s important to seek medical advice. There are a number of adverse health effects associated with insomnia.
Although many children may experience difficulties sleeping from time to time, consistent issues with sleeping should be evaluated professionally. If your child’s regular doctor cannot find a method of managing the insomnia, you may choose to ask for a referral to a specialist with proper training in insomnia.
Some psychological and behavioral techniques may be helpful in managing insomnia. These include relaxation training, sleep restriction, stimulus control and cognitive behavioral therapy, to name a few. While some of these techniques require no supervision and can be self-taught, others are best used under the guidance of a sleep specialist or therapist.
Relaxation training, also known as progressive muscle relaxation, entails teaching a person to systematically relax and tense the body’s different muscles. This technique helps to induce sleep by calming the body.
Other relaxation techniques to help manage insomnia include various breathing exercises, meditation techniques, mindfulness and guided imagery. Audio recordings may be helpful for helping people learn these techniques.
Stimulus control promotes an association between sleep and the bedroom by limiting certain types of activities while in the bedroom. Sleep restriction involves adhering to a strict sleep schedule of bedtimes and waking times.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) involves making behavioral changes while adding a “thinking” component that can help promote long-term effectiveness. CBT teaches positive thinking and challenges certain beliefs and fears that may be affecting sleep.
There are a variety of sleep aids available for those dealing with insomnia, including prescription medications and other over-the-counter medications. Effective medication may be determined by your symptoms, which is why consulting with a doctor prior to using a sleep aid is advised.
There are a number of alternative medicines available to help alleviate the symptoms associated with child insomnia. These natural methods may be used in conjunction with a healthy diet to produce positive health benefits.
Dealing with child insomnia or anxiety-induced insomnia can be difficult for both child and parent. Don’t hesitate to seek help if you suspect that your child is having difficulty sleeping. Pinpointing the root cause of this sleep disruption can provide great relief, ensuring your child continues on toward a path of health and happiness.
Does your child exhibit symptoms of child insomnia? What methods of coping have you found most effective?