Saturday, August 29, 2009

Does Childhood Insomnia Exist?

As children begin to attend school regularly, many become involved in extracurricular and social activities that cut into their sleep time, which may result in insufficient sleep. Although children at any age can have anxiety that affects their ability to sleep, U.S. News & World Report notes that school-age children can develop what may be thought of as "pseudo-insomnia."

Parents may worry if their child is having a hard time falling asleep; however, it may be a problem that is fixed simply by adjusting bedtime. For instance, parents may set a bedtime that allows for 12 hours of sleep for a 7 to 8 eight year old child, who only needs 10 to 11 hours of nightly sleep. Pushing bedtime back by an hour may eliminate the child’s inability to fall asleep.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, children’s nightly sleep requirements vary by age. Suggested nightly sleep needs for children are:

  • Infants (3 to 11 months): 14 to 15 hours
  • Toddlers: 12 to 14 hours
  • Preschoolers: 11 to 13 hours
  • School-age children: 10 to 11 hours
Parents should help children build healthy sleep hygiene habits, which include avoiding TV in bed, preparing for bed with a routine, avoiding going to bed until sleepy enough for sleep, and waking at the same time each morning—including weekends.

Older children often develop a problematic sleep pattern called delayed sleep phase disorder. By waking late on weekends relative to weekdays, they shift their body clocks late and then have trouble with sleep onset on Sunday to Thursday nights. They may lie in bed and worry about their ability to fall asleep, which compounds the problem for them. This latter difficulty is often termed psychophysiological insomnia and is a common cause of adulthood insomnia as well.

Insomnia symptoms include difficulty falling or staying asleep, waking up too early or poor quality sleep.

Learn more about behavioral insomnia of childhood on

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