Battling Childhood Insomnia: What Parents Can Do at Home

kid in bed

You’d think that insomnia is a problem solely for teens and adults, but children can suffer from this sleep condition, too.

Insomnia is the difficulty or inability to fall and stay asleep at night, causing sufferers to miss out on the restorative benefits of good sleep. This issue may be temporary, especially when your child goes through a significant change in their lives (e.g. moving, changing schools, losing a loved one, etc.). However, if this problem persists for weeks or even months, it can cause detrimental effects on your child’s physical and mental health.

If your child starts to exhibit symptoms of insomnia, here are the most important steps you can do to help them:

1. Talk to their doctor

Doctors can diagnose the root of your child’s sleep problems, which can be anything from stress, poor nutrition, excessive screen time, or an underlying medical issue. Moreover, they can point you in the direction of a sleep specialist that can help your child cope with their insomnia through different types of therapy.

A doctor can also recommend study volunteer opportunities, which can help you and your child understand the disorder more and help other patients in the process.

2. Make their bed a sleep-only zone

Sometimes, one of the reasons why children have trouble falling asleep is that they associate their bed with other activities, such as playing, studying, eating, or anything else besides sleep. That said, encourage them to only use their bed for resting and sleeping. In this way, they associate this area with nothing other than sleep, which can be a great way to help them fall asleep much faster during bedtime.

3. Don’t make them go to bed as punishment

Avoid telling your child to go to bed or stay in their bedroom as punishment. In this way, they don’t associate negative feelings with the space wherein they get to rest. If you must use time-out as a punishment, have them stay in other parts of the house, such as the living room or the hallway.

4. Increase the comfort in their bedroom

A more comfortable bedroom will increase the chances of your child getting fitful sleep every night. Here are several ways you can increase the comfort in their place of rest:

  • Maintain cleanliness.

    A clean, organized bedroom helps relax the mind and avoid distractions, making way for better sleep.

  • Adjust the temperature.

    Most children get the best sleep with temperatures around 65 degrees, which is slightly cooler than the normal room temperature. The same is true for the majority of adults as well.

  • Address air quality issues.

    Poor air quality can cause respiratory problems, which, in turn, can lead to restless sleep. Address any air quality issues that your home may have, be it dirty air filters or excessive humidity.

  • Keep their bed comfortable.

    Wash their beddings at least once a week, as children tend to carry more dirt to their bed than adults do. Moreover, ensure that their bed is the right size for their weight and height.

  • Use a noise machine.

    A noise machine can help mask noise from outside your child’s bedroom, such as traffic, sounds of other family members, and pets.

5. Use a weighted blanket

child's bed

Weighted blankets provide a sensory experience that may produce a calming effect for both adults and children. That said, giving your child a weighted blanket may reduce stress, anxiety, restless leg syndrome, and other conditions that may be hindering your child from getting good sleep.

6. Follow a strict dinner schedule

Having your child go to bed too hungry or too full can lead to them having trouble falling asleep. To combat this problem, always have them eat dinner at least two hours before their bedtime. If they feel peckish after that, give them a light snack like a piece of fruit or a glass of milk.

7. Increase their physical activity

For both kids and adults, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to a myriad of sleep problems, especially insomnia. If your child is not moving as much as they need to, encourage them to engage in more physical activity through play, sports, chores, and other forms of exercise. However, avoid letting them be overly active two to three hours before bedtime.

There are plenty more ways that you can help your child get better sleep at night, but these are the best ones that you can try first. If these strategies don’t work, it may be time to get the help of a sleep specialist or other professionals that can tackle the problem at the root, such as a counselor or a child psychologist.

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