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Pediatric Insomnia | Unraveling the Mysteries of Bad Dreams and Dragons Under the Bed

Pediatric insomnia therapy, counseling for insomnia in children with Carolina Counseling Services Fayetteville NC,therapy for pediatric insomnia insomnia counseling for children, counseling for a child’s emotional health Fayetteville NC

Pediatric Insomnia | Unraveling the Mysteries of Bad Dreams and Dragons Under the Bed


Do you often find your hands full because of a cranky child? If you are looking for a way to improve his/her behavior, why not start with the little one’s sleeping pattern. Insomnia isn’t only a sleep problem of adults.  It can similarly affect young children. If your child is not sleeping well because of insomnia, it will not be a small matter that you can let pass. Since quality sleep is vital in the biological, cognitive, and emotional progress of children, sleeplessness is a grave concern that all parents must seriously understand.

For one, insomnia is often linked to emotional issues. Thus, sleep debt in children can result in a wide range of emotional and behavioral issues at home and school. They can manifest hyperactivity, crankiness/irritability, difficulty in regulating impulses, learning problems, inattentiveness, etc. Current research also supports that insomnia can directly contribute or increase the risk for the development of depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, learning disorders, bipolar disorder, etc. It can also be a symptom of certain medical conditions.

So, if your child lies awake night after night, and wakes up cranky all the time, don’t take it as something natural. Considering the possible connection of insomnia to several medical, emotional and behavioral conditions, it is best to consult professionals for the symptoms to be assessed.


Understanding Pediatric Insomnia

 What is pediatric insomnia? Cleveland Clinic defines it as “a sleep disturbance in which children have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night.” The sleep issue can cause them to wake up very early in the mornings. It can impair a child’s daytime behavior and functioning, particularly the long-term, severe type. If the condition is undiagnosed, it can also impact a child’s health in the long run. Short-term, mild insomnia can extend from a few days to weeks and it can be caused by an ailment or a medication that he/she is taking.

On the other hand, the long-term, severe type can occur three times a week for many weeks or months. This is usually connected to an important cause, such as emotional or medical conditions. It can also be triggered by emotional issues manifested in bad dreams or wild imaginations, so that they think there are “monsters and dragons” under the bed. There may also be certain cases when there are no alarming reasons for a child’s sleeplessness, but bedtime resistance or the need to have a parent put them to sleep.

It isn’t uncommon for daytime stress to trigger short-term, mild insomnia. These could be brought about by hyperactivity, conflicts in the family, abrupt changes in the home front, bullying in school, tense school activities, a new environment, etc. Use of certain medications and stimulants may also keep the little one too alert for many hours at night.


 The Challenges with Insomnia in Children

Insomnia is a common health issue among adults, which is why it is seldom conceived to be a possible concern among children as well. Many parents are misled by the signs and symptoms, being very different from the ones commonly exhibited by adults with insomnia. The primary causes of this sleep issue are also usually different. In addition, these causes can be difficult to recognize, diagnose and treat.

Long-term pediatric insomnia can be difficult to identify. One reason, according to Chiu et al (Pediatric Sleep Disorders, 2014 published in Medscape), is the fact that it is a symptom that can be associated with several emotional and medical conditions.  Studies show that depression is among the most prevalent root cause of insomnia in children. There are also studies that support that it can be linked to anxiety, ADHD, and certain learning/developmental disorders. It can also be connected to medical conditions like nocturnal seizures, nocturnal asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), conditions that lead to blindness, etc.

The challenge of parents and therapists can be compounded by their undeveloped communication capacity. Unable to coherently verbalize the nuances of the sleeplessness can result in the matter becoming more confusing for parents as they relate these to their therapists. Despite the challenges, you/parents must not dismiss sleeplessness as something that will soon pass. For their proper diagnosis and treatment, you need to actively participate in these processes. You must be able to pass on critical information that their therapist can use to help them.


Signs and Symptoms of Pediatric Insomnia

It is true that crying excessively and irritability is frequently manifested by a young child who didn’t have good sleep the night before. The manifestations can be worse when not receiving quality sleep night after night, which is the case of a child with insomnia. Know, however, that not every child with the condition will exhibit these signs and symptoms. They may not cry, exhibit tantrums or show mood swings, but they can appear “down,” or exhibit hyperactivity, aggressiveness, poor memory, and inattentiveness.


According to Insomnia.Net, there are other signs and symptoms that you must observe with keenness, in the case of very young children, or discuss with them, in the case of older children. These symptoms are:


  • They report difficulty falling asleep after they’ve been put to bed, relate episodes of waking up in the night, the inability to go back to sleep once they’ve woken up, or waking up early in the morning while it’s still dark out and before anyone else is awake.
  • Children may be chronically tired, complain of being tired, may visibly seem groggy and distracted.
  • In combination with the above, observed behavior could become more erratic, even moody.
  • Behavior could initially resemble ADHD, with hyperactive components.


Considering the links between certain medical and emotional conditions to insomnia, it is important to let your child’s doctor and/or therapist know about their inability to sleep well at night. If the child is taking medications or stimulants, particularly before bedtime, these may also similarly affect the quality of their sleep, even if it is temporary. If the symptoms are prolonged, there could be other reason/s for their insomnia. It is important to seek help right away because it can be a symptom of a bigger issue, such as a “… neurodevelopmental, nonpsychiatric medical conditions and psychiatric disorders,” says Chiu et al.


Catching Your Quality “Forty Winks” with Expert Help

Quality sleep plays an important role in a child’s healthy growth and development. Not receiving enough sleep, whether it is caused by “beasts and dragons,” emotional issues or a medical matter, can harshly affect their health and growth progress. While a pediatrician can help in ruling out medical/medication issues, your child can benefit from a therapist when there are emotional and behavioral issues to be resolved concerning their insomnia. Have your child’s pediatric insomnia diagnosed and treated with the help of an expert therapist independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC.

Losing sleep for so long can compromise your child’s overall health and quality of life. This should not happen, especially because insomnia is treatable. Just providing short-term solutions, like the use of medications, is analogous to “putting a band-aid” on a “leaky faucet.” There are interventions that do not require the use of drugs. This is what you can expect a CCS contracted therapist to offer your young child.

Remember that insomnia can be dangerously linked to an emotional or medical condition. Seeking help must not be delayed. If insomnia is resulting in it being difficult for your child to experience quality sleep, contact Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC.

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services

Counties: Cumberland, Bladen and Sampson Counties, NC
Areas: Fayetteville NC, Ft Bragg NC, Pope Field NC, Sliver City NC, Linden NC, Bowmore NC, Autryville NC, Bunnlevel NC, Erwin NC, Dundarrach NC, Pineview NC, Rex NC, Lemon Springs NC, Johnsonville NC, Eastover NC, Stedman NC and Wade, NC
Zip Codes: 28311, 28395, 28390, 28356

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FayettevilleNC 28311

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  • Becky Clark, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Anxiety, Depression, Individuals, Couples, Geriatrics, Criminal Justice, Stress Management, Loss and Grief related to death, disability, divorce, deployment, “empty nest”, retirement and other major life transitions
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