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Home > Sleep Disorders > Pediatric Sleep Disorders > Insomnia


Overview Of Pediatric Insomnia

Sleep disturbances or insomnia in children are common and often difficult to treat. Managing physicians have few institutional guidelines to follow when treating children with pediatric insomnia. Like adults, children may have trouble falling or staying asleep at night. Some studies suggest 40% of children under age 3 wakeup frequently at night. Roughly 27% of school-age children have difficulty getting or staying asleep.

Complications Of Insomnia In Children

Lack of sleep in children or sleep deprivation may lead to cognitive and physical problems. Children may for example, have difficulty concentrating in school. They may demonstrate behaviors that are more aggressive than normal. Children may also act irritated when they are sleep deprived. Many of the studies available on pediatric insomnia suggest children are most at risk for behavioral problems and performance problems if they do not get at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep at night.

Sleep Hygiene For Children With Insomnia

It is important parents talk closely with a child’s pediatrician or healthcare provider before giving over-the-counter sleep aids. Often these medications are available for adult use only. Often your child's doctor will recommend a non-medication or natural approach to treating insomnia before he or she would recommend taking a medication. For example, your child's doctor may recommend you set up a new nighttime routine with your child.

Studies suggest good sleep hygiene combined with alternative therapies like melatonin are effective for treating early insomnia in children.

Medication Guidelines For Pediatric Insomnia

According to a study in Pediatrics, far too many children that have insomnia are not diagnosed and therefore not treated correctly. Currently there are few rigorous guidelines that provide doctors the information they need to recommend proper pharmacological or medication treatment for children with insomnia. Right now, there is no consensus regarding the safety and efficacy of many prescription and some over-the-counter medications used to manage pediatric insomnia.

Sleep Aids & Supplements For Children

Some doctors recommend melatonin treatment for children suffering from chronic insomnia. Because there are no guidelines for giving melatonin to children, parents should be cautious about administering this supplement to their children. If you and your doctor decide your child needs prescription medication or natural supplements like melatonin to overcome insomnia, be sure you follow your doctor's guidelines before giving your child the medication. Your doctor will know how much medicine or how much of a supplement your child can take safely.

What To Do If You Suspect Your Child Suffers From Insomnia

Early diagnosis is essential to your child’s health and wellness. It is important you make note of any unusual behavior your child demonstrates or mood changes that may result from lack of sleep. Good sleep hygiene can promote restful sleep in children. To help your child fall and stay asleep, parents can work with their children to develop a nighttime routine.

This may include brushing teeth, reading a book together and going to sleep at the same time every night. Allowing children to stay up late on weekends will only contribute to accumulated sleep deprivation with time. Make sure you talk to your child about how important sleep is. Lifestyle changes including limiting television viewing up to 4 hours before bed may be all that is necessary to help your child sleep. If you aren’t sure what steps to take, talk with your child’s pediatrician or health provider for more advice about curing insomnia in children.


  • Mindell, Jodi, Emslie, Graham, Blumer, Jeffrey, Genel, Myron, et al. "Pharmacologic Management of Insomnia in Children and Adolescents: Consensus Statement". Pediatrics, 117(6): e1223-32. June 2006.
  • Owens, Judith A., Rosen, Carol L. & Mindell, Jodi A. "Medication use in the treatment of pediatric insomnia: Results of a survey of community-based pediatricians", Pediatrics, 111: 628-35. 2003.
  • W. Braam, R. Didden, M. Smits, L. Curfs. "Melatonin treatment in individuals with intellectual disability and chronic insomnia: a randomized placebo-controlled study", Journal of Intellectual Disability Research (OnlineEarly Articles). doi:10.1111/j.1365-2788.2007.01016.x 2000.
  • Weiss, Margaret D., Wasdell, Michael B., Bomben, Melissa M., Rea, Kathleen J., & Freeman, Roger D. "Sleep hygiene and melatonin treatment for children and adolescents with ADHD and initial insomnia". Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 45(5): 512-19. May 2006.