Insomnia is a well-known condition among adults, but did you know that children can suffer from it too? Although kids sleep more than adults, they also are not immune to sleep problems, and the condition known as behavioral insomnia is the most common cause of sleep disturbances among children.
Since children are not always able to explain everything, it is important that their parents can understand what is going on and to notice when there is a problem. Parents should be informed about bedtime routines, potential sleep problems, etc. Hence, we decided to focus on behavioral insomnia in children (BIC) because sleep is essential for the growth and development of every child.
What is Behavioral Insomnia?
Insomnia is a term which refers to difficulties with falling or staying asleep, and it is the most dominant type of sleep disorders among children. It can manifest in two ways – by either struggling to maintain sleep or experiencing difficulties to fall asleep. Around 25% of all children will experience it at some point in their childhood, and although this is significantly less percentage of sleep problems among adults. However, for normal and healthy development, it’s vital children don’t have any sleep debt so early in their life.
There are various reasons why children develop this disorder, it could be anything from not so pleasant sleep environment, to some things that their parents are doing wrong. To better understand how children and sleep disturbances are connected, two main types of BIC are created:
- Sleep onset association is usually diagnosed among infants and toddlers, and it is connected to negative feelings and thoughts related to sleep. These kids need their parents to comfort them in order to fall asleep or at least some activity like rocking or playing lullabies that will soothe them.
- Limit-setting is almost a phase through which every child will go at some point. Children would challenge their parents to do anything, to get an opportunity to stay awake and play or watch cartoons 5 minutes more. From asking parents to read them one more bedtime story or to bring them a glass of water, these kids will try anything. Parents need to ignore their requests because it will lead to inconsistency in their bedtime schedule.
How to Recognize the Symptoms
Depending on age, children can sleep from 16 to 10 hours per day, and babies will even do a few naps. By the age of 3, the child should sleep around 12 hours, and parents are the ones who need to arrange the child’s sleep routine in a way that those needs are fulfilled almost entirely during the night. This means that daytime naps should be kicked out of the routine when the child is 4 or 5 years old.
So how can you tell that your child did not get enough shut-eye during the previous night? Well, the symptoms do not differ as much from the ones that adults experience, but they are slightly heavier because children do not know how to cope with them or how to explain what is going on properly.
Sleep-deprived younger kids can become particularly cranky, moody, sleepy, prone to meltdowns, or they will refuse to listen and cooperate. Older ones can struggle with school commitments, attention, concentration, and their performance will start to suffer, etc.
What Causes BIC?
Potential causes are numerous, since children’s sleep is so fragile, and it can easily be disturbed by anything that they are not able to understand yet. Even things like sleep environment, temperature, noise, or lighting can trigger their sleep issues. In certain cases, sleep problems are related to some traumas, or the things they might have heard wrong, family problems, etc.
Older children can start staying up late if they have a television in their room, a laptop, tablet, smartphone, or any electronic device that will keep them up longer than they should be. The cause can be the disturbing content, or the light coming from the screen; in both cases, it will cause your child to stay up and fall asleep at a different time every night.
How to Overcome BIC?
Luckily, it is not so hard to sleep train your children and make them do specific behavioral changes that will improve their sleep. But, to do that, it is necessary that their parents follow their behavior and notice when something is not right. Parents should custom tailor a bedtime routine and sleep schedule, which means that their child will have to go to sleep at the same time, every night, with no excuses accepted. A routine should include a few calming rituals, taking a warm bubble bath, reading fairy tales or stories, etc.
Although it might seem scary to find out that your child is struggling with insomnia, it is essential to keep in mind that you are the main person who can help your child. It is crucial to monitor their behavior, the things they talk, make questions about their sleep, dreams, etc. to get as much as possible information which can tell you whether or not your child is having sleep problems.
Selena Thomas is a content writer who loves sharing tips on healthy lifestyles. A writer by day and a reader by night, she’s fond of writing articles that can help people in improving both physical and mental health. Also, she loves traveling and inspires people on her blogs.