Is Your Child Suffering From Insomnia? Find out

Bedtime can often be a battle between the parents and children. However, rather than adopting stern measures to make your little one sleep, you need to understand the root cause of this issue.

By Amruta Deshpande

Is Your Child Suffering From Insomnia? Find out

We often hear parents complaining about their child not going to bed early or not sleeping through the night. Usually, we attribute it to the child not liking sleep or the child throwing a tantrum. But that may not be the case all the time. Often, children who avoid sleeping are suffering from insomnia. Just as adults suffer from insomnia, children can too.

Insomnia in children:

Insomnia is when people have difficulty in sleeping. When children can’t sleep through the night or wake up early or just don’t go to sleep on a regular basis, they might have insomnia. This might lead to adverse effects on the health and lifestyle of the children.

Causes:

  • Stress: It may be hard to believe but children have stress too. There are many issues children face such as school workload, exams, bullying at school, peer pressure, fears and pressure to excel in everything. So, it is essential to talk to children and understand what they are going through.
  • Environmental problems: An uncomfortable environment in the house or bedroom can also cause difficulty in sleeping. If the room is dusty or hot or cold, it can interfere with sleep. The use of electronics in the bedroom should be limited and the bed should be comfortable.
  • Caffeine: All drinks which contain caffeine like soda or energy drinks can pose a hurdle in a child getting good sleep. Nicotine is bad for sleep.
  • Medication: Children who take some medicine can face sleep disorder. Medicines for depression, anxiety, anticonvulsants, and corticosteroids can have an adverse effect on eating and sleeping habits of the children.
  • Medical and other sleep disorders: Any kind of health problem like cold, allergies, asthma or cramps, etc. can prevent a good night’s sleep. Depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder can be responsible for poor sleep. So, if your child is facing a sleeping problem, ensure that they have had a full physical examination.

When we know the cause of the problem, only then can we work on solving it. It is essential to understand that insomnia is can also be caused by the changes in lifestyle. Dr Manoj Zalte, a paediatrician, says, “This sleep disorder in children is also because of the lifestyle their parents and they lead. If the parents don’t go to sleep early and are awake late in the night, the children would also likely stay awake with them. And this would disrupt the sleep cycle of the children.

But, to know the children are suffering from insomnia, we first have to realise that there is a problem. Instead of thinking that the child is having trouble falling asleep, we think that they are acting out. If the child is not sleeping through the night or avoiding sleep, we scold them or get frustrated. But think that of all the problem the child is facing because of lack of sleep. While there is no specific way to diagnose the sleep disorder, understanding the symptoms can help a lot. 

Symptoms of insomnia:

  • Difficulty in falling asleep or waking up really early
  • Not being able to stay asleep
  • Disciplinary problem
  • Being sleepy during the day
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Memory problems
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Low attention span

Once you recognise the symptoms of insomnia, you can work on its treatment. Dr Zalte said, “If children are going out to play, how will they burn off the excess energy in their body. Parents should make children go out of the house to play or plan outings.”

According to Psychologist Juilee Bapat, “Media usage should be limited in the house. If possible, parents should leave their work out of the house and reduce the time spent in front of the television. Children learn from their parents, so if the parents are going to watch television late in the night, the children would also avoid sleeping and would prefer staying awake.” 

She further adds, “Parents should talk to the children about why they are not being able to sleep. Sometimes, children are scared of the dark and they think that keeping their eyes open will keep the monsters away. Even the mental activities can keep the children awake at night. So, it is important to talk and understand why the children are facing sleep disorder. Also, behavioural therapy models can help in improving their sleep cycle.”

Does your child have trouble falling asleep? Is his sleep always disturbed? Read the below article to find out how you can help him overcome these common sleep-related problems.

Ways to help children overcome insomnia:

  • Keep a fixed bedtime: Avoid any kind of distraction during this period. Make sure the kids have not had any caffeinated drinks before sleeping. Keep the television and other gadgets away from the bedroom. Establish a fixed sleep routine.
  • Increase physical activities: Encourage the children to play outside or participate in different sports or extracurricular activities. This would help in burning off the excess energy the right way.
  • Eat a nutritious and healthy meal: Avoid the junk food and soda drinks which may contain caffeine.
  • Try to create a happy environment: Children are like a sponge, they absorb everything around them. Avoid fight and arguments in front of the children.
  • Go for behavioural therapy models: These are important to achieve better results without involving any kind of medication. The models are focused on identifying the problem and then change the behaviour. Many times, rewards and punishments are used to help children overcome the sleep disorder.

Lack of sleep can make children cranky and cause other health issues. However, a little care, love and the right guidance go a long way in helping children deal with sleep issues.

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