Insomnia in Children


Insomnia in Children, Pediatric Insomnia, Behavioral Insomnia of Childhood

  • Epidemiology
  1. Prevalence: 10-30% of children
  2. Gender predominance: None (boys and girls are affected equally)
  • Types
  1. Sleep Onset Association Type of Behavioral Insomnia
    1. Difficulty sleeping without specific conditions met (e.g. parent rocks an infant to sleep)
    2. Frequent night awakenings
    3. Bedtime process is arduous
  2. Limit-Setting Type of Behavioral Insomnia
    1. Bedtime refusal or stalling
    2. Child refuses to sleep after night awakenings
    3. Parents make concessions to the child to ease bedtime routine (e.g. allow Co-Sleeping)
  • Management
  • Initial Measures
  1. Maintain consistent consistent schedules
    1. Consistent bedtime routines
      1. Maintain same bedtime and awakening time daily
      2. Child should be drowsy, but awake when placed in bed
    2. Consistent meal times
    3. Consistent nap times
  2. Maintain a positive bedtime
    1. Introduce calming activities prior to bed (e.g. reading bedtime story)
  3. Extinction Technique: Avoid reinforcing behavior
    1. See Trained Night Crier
    2. See Trained Night Feeder
    3. Child is checked on for serious cries of distress or checked on briefly (<1 minute) at regular intervals
    4. Frequent calls, tantrums, crying is otherwise ignored
    5. No rewards are given (no food, additional time, hugs, reading)
  • Management
  • Advanced techniques
  1. Faded Bedtime
    1. Goal: Decrease the time a child spends awake in bed
    2. Bedtime is delayed until the predicted time of sleep onset (with a consistent awakening time)
    3. Similar to Sleep Restriction Therapy
      1. Used for adults in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia
  2. Response Cost
    1. Remove child from bed for a pre-determined amount of time (e.g. 30 minutes) if sleep onset does not occur within a specific time period
    2. Similar to Sleep Stimulus Control
      1. Used for adults in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia
  3. Scheduled Awakenings
    1. Parents log the times of night awakenings
    2. Awaken the child prior to the expected time of night awakening
    3. Slowly decreased the number of scheduled awakenings over time