Insomnia in Children

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disturbance in which children have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night. Sometimes the complaint is one of waking up too early. While older children may complain of this on their own, often it is the parent of the youngster who brings this to attention. Insomnia complaints are generally associated with a feeling of non-restorative sleep and impairment in daytime functioning.

Insomnia can be classified based on duration (short- or long-term), severity, and frequency of the problem. Short-term insomnia may occur for just a few days to weeks and is caused by factors that will usually easily pass (eg, sickness, a short-term medication your child is taking). Long-term insomnia occurs three times a week for a month or longer and may be caused by factors for which you would seek medical advice for your child (eg, depression, anxiety, pain, medical problems). Sometimes, there may be no obvious reason at all. In children, bedtime resistance and dependency on a parent to initiate sleep is also considered as a form of insomnia with behavioral causes at the root of the problem.

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