Insomnia in Children

What causes childhood insomnia?

There are a number of possible causes of insomnia, including:

  • Stress. Yes, kids, just like adults can suffer from stress. So don’t hesitate to show interest in your child’s life and build trust so they feel comfortable sharing their worries with you. Ask how things are going at school. Is your child being bullied by someone? Is everything under your own roof running smoothly (ie, is there arguing, fighting between siblings, marital or financial problems; has there been a death in the family, a recent job change; has the family recently moved)? Children worry more than you might think and excess worry and stress can lead to insomnia.
  • Use of caffeine or other stimulants. Remember even some clear sodas and most energy drinks have caffeine. Nicotine and alcohol interfere with sleep as well.
  • Side effects of certain medications. For example, drugs used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, antidepressants, corticosteroids, and anticonvulsants can cause insomnia.
  • Medical, psychiatric and other sleep disorders. Uncontrolled nighttime asthma, a stuffy nose from allergies or itchy skin from eczema can get in the way of good sleep. If these conditions are chronic, they may be easily ignored until they flare up. Other medical disorders, including fibromyalgia, muscle cramps, growing pains, heartburn, and thyroid disease can all cause insomnia. Be sure to have your child’s physical health examined as a possible cause of insomnia. Sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (associated with snoring) and restless legs syndrome may interfere with your child’s sleep. Neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism, mental retardation, and Asperger’s syndrome, can also be a cause of insomnia. Finally, psychiatric conditions like depression or bipolar disorder can be associated with poor sleep.
  • Environmental factors. Noise, heat, cold, and light conditions in the bedroom can interfere with sleep. Make sure the bed and mattress are comfortable and the bedroom is organized to reduce environmental interference. This includes restrictions on the use of electronics in the bedroom.

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