Pediatric Insomnia

Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep during the night.

What is Pediatric Insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that causes problems falling asleep, staying asleep and waking up too early in the morning. Sleep is crucial to childhood development, and insomnia can lead to health problems or behavioral issues.

Insomnia can be short-term, lasting a few days or weeks, and may be related to medication, anxiety from a stressful event or illness. However, it can also be a long-term condition that will impact the child for their entire life.

Insomnia can be chronic (ongoing and occurs three times a week for a month or longer), cyclical (problems balancing wake-and-sleep cycles that can come and go throughout life) or transient (typically lasts less than three weeks).

While it is more common in adults, children can develop chronic insomnia, including 10% of adolescents (age 10 to 19).

What are the different types of Pediatric Insomnia?

There are two main types of insomnia:

Primary insomnia

The insomnia is not related to another condition. This is sometimes referred to as psychophysiological insomnia. It often involves poor sleep habits, going to bed and waking up at different times, and negative thoughts or anxiety about falling asleep.

Secondary insomnia

The insomnia is a symptom of a larger problem and is caused by a medical condition or is related to behavioral health issues. 

Patterns of insomnia

Within the types of insomnia, children will typically experience three patterns of insomnia that  impact their nighttime sleep.

  • Onset – Children have a difficult time falling asleep. This is typically defined as taking longer than 30 minutes.
  • Middle – Children will wake up in the middle of the night or are unable to sleep long periods of time.
  • Terminal – Children will wake up too early in the morning.

What are the signs and symptoms of Pediatric Insomnia?

  • Behavioral health issues like depression or problems concentrating (may resemble ADHD)
  • Difficulty falling back asleep once awake
  • Excessive drowsiness or grogginess during the day
  • Resisting going to sleep or worrying about nighttime
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Waking up during the night
  • Waking up early (while it's still dark out)

What are the causes of Pediatric Insomnia?

Insomnia can be caused by several factors, including:

  • Behavioral health issues like bipolar disorder or depression
  • Caffeine or other stimulants
  • Environmental factors (extreme temperatures, light and loud noises)
  • Medical conditions like allergies, asthma, eczema, fibromyalgia, GERD, growing pains or thyroid disease 
  • Medications like corticosteroids and those that treat attention deficit disorder (ADHD), depression and convulsions
  • Neurodevelopment disorders like Asperger’s syndrome or autism and mental disabilities
  • Sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and restless legs syndrome (RLS)
  • Stress

Pediatric Insomnia Doctors and Providers