This month, we celebrated #SleepAwarenessWeek! Sleep is really important for mental and physical health – no matter your age. But what happens when your child won’t sleep? Learn more about this topic below.
What is childhood insomnia?
Like adults, children with insomnia either have trouble going to sleep, staying asleep or are simply not well rested after what should be a normal amount of time sleeping. In addition to being sleepy during the day, symptoms of childhood insomnia can include:
- Decreased attention span
- Depressed mood
- Memory problems
- Mood swings
What causes childhood insomnia?
There are lots of potential triggers for childhood insomnia. Some common drivers include:
- Separation anxiety that occurs when a child knows they have to go to their own room alone
- Lack of routine or sudden transition to bedtime – especially from something fun
- Older sibling(s) staying up and doing something the younger child wants to participate in
- Nightmare avoidance
- Already too tired to sleep
- TV or other screen time before bedtime
- Struggles with impulse control or winding down
There can also be physical reasons why your child might have sleep issues, such as:
- Medications, such as those that treat ADHD
- Food or drinks that contain stimulants. There are lots of sneaky sources of stimulants. Sodas, chocolate, and even some cereals may contain caffeine
- Medical conditions like asthma, allergies, or eczema – not to mention growing pains
- Child obesity
Keep in mind that the COVID-19 pandemic may be a factor, since it’s had such an impact on children’s mental health.
The most important thing to help your child sleep better is good sleep hygiene – bedtime rituals that make bedtime a good part of the day. These bedtime rituals or bedtime routines help your child wind down, create positive associations with bedtime, and understand that it’s now time to rest.
Studies show that difficulty sleeping, especially among young children, often has roots in behaviors. That’s why a bedtime routine is so helpful.
Here are 5 tips to build a child’s bedtime routine:
- Make sure that bedtime occurs at the same time each night, including weekends
- Provide plenty of transition time and let your child know bedtime is coming well before it begins
- Keep a consistent routine, i.e. brushing teeth, reading a book, then lights out
- Try a soothing bath. Warm water has sleep-inducing powers. Try incorporating a mild soap or lotion with chamomile or lavender into your baby’s bathtime for extra relaxation
- Turn off devices at least an hour before bedtime. Blue light from televisions, computer screens, phones and tablets suppresses melatonin levels and delays sleepiness. Bright light in the hour before bedtime can have the same effect on young children