Behavioral childhood insomnia or problems can include bedtime refusal or resistance, delayed sleep and nighttime wakings.
Lack of sleep in children can be especially detrimental because sleep is key in the growth and development of children. Furthermore, behavioral childhood insomnia can affect the quality of life of both children and their caregivers. Consistent or prolonged childhood sleep problems, such as behavioral childhood insomnia can affect a child’s mood, academic performance, behavioral problems or even their health.
Behavioral childhood insomnia is most commonly caused by maladaptive sleep onset associations (i.e. being held, rocked, eating or drinking before bed) or setting of limits by parents. It is normal to an extent for children to resist bedtime and they are usually short-lived. For them to be considered a disorder they must occur three times a week for more than 3 months and cause severe impairment of functioning in the child. It is important to fix sleep onset associations. Many children learn to fall asleep only under certain circumstances or conditions. When they wake in the night instead of having “self-soothing” capabilities, the child has learned to cry or seek out their parents. It is important that children learn to self-soothe. A part of this is putting children to sleep when they are drowsy or tired, but still awake. Next it is key to set limits with your child and stick to them. Limit-setting type behavioral insomnia is most common in younger children (preschool age and older).
Your child might verbally protest going to bed, show active resistance, or have demands (one more story, play a game, drink some milk, go to the bathroom, etc.). Before laying your child make sure all their needs are met, as to decrease these demands. If your child’s bedtime is prolonged for too long, they may get inadequate sleep. It is vital to remember that you are the parent, so it is your job to prepare a bedtime environment and routine, then infroce it. Children feel most secure and safe with routines so although it may be difficult to fix once your child has behavioral insomnia, it is important to do so. We recommend forming a bedtime routine and setting healthy limitations with your child. Try to avoid associating bedtime with a certain action and put them down when tired but not already asleep. Integrate Storybook into your bedtime routine today to connect with your child and get family quality time. Remember, if your child sleeps better, so do you.