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What is insomnia?

Insomnia is a common sleep-wake disorder that can affect kids. All kids have trouble sleeping at some point, but for some it is a serious problem. People with insomnia have persistent difficulties falling or staying asleep. For children and teenagers with insomnia the problems caused by lack of sleep bleed into other areas of life, causing behavioral issues, impacting their social and school lives, and making it difficult to function normally. 

What are the symptoms of insomnia?

he main symptom of insomnia is trouble sleeping. A child with insomnia might have trouble falling asleep at night. Or they might wake up repeatedly during the night or very early in the morning and have trouble going back to sleep.

Insomnia can cause a lot of problems in kids’ daily lives, including:

  • Worry about going to bed and being able to fall asleep
  • BWorry about going to bed and being able to fall asleep 
  • Being tired during the day 
  • Disruptive behavior 
  • Irritability and mood swings 
  • Depression 
  • Hyperactivity 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Accidental injuries   

How is insomnia treated?

If you think your child may have insomnia, there are a number of helpful steps you can try at home: 

  • Set a regular bedtime 
  • Limit caffeinated foods and drinks 
  • Make sure clocks and screens are out of sight at bedtime 
  • Do your best to make the room where your child sleeps dark, quiet and a comfortable temperature
  • Help your child learn relaxation techniques 

If these steps don’t help, a cognitive behavioral therapist can work with you and your child to help them learn to manage stress and form new sleep habits.

Children and teenagers with insomnia do not usually take medication for it.

This guide was last reviewed or updated on December 18, 2023.