Insomnia | Symptoms and Causes

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What are the symptoms of insomnia in children?

Insomnia in children can begin at any time, from infancy through adolescence, and in some cases can develop into a long-term problem. Symptoms can include:

  • bedtime refusal and struggles going to bed
  • frequent "curtain calls" after lights out (such as requests for drinks, hugs or stories)
  • difficulty falling asleep once in bed
  • frequent or prolonged night wakings with difficulty returning to sleep independently
  • waking earlier than desired
  • resistance to an appropriate sleep schedule
  • difficulty napping
  • trouble waking in the morning or getting up for school

In addition, parents or caregivers of children with insomnia often report that the child suffers during the day. Daytime symptoms can include:

  • fatigue, tiredness, sleepiness
  • attention, concentration or memory impairments
  • problems with social, family, occupational or academic performance
  • mood disturbances or irritability
  • behavioral problems (hyperactivity, aggression or oppositional behavior)
  • reduced motivation
  • poor decision-making and impulse control
  • low tolerance for frustration

What causes insomnia in children?

Many times insomnia is a symptom that is caused by something else. Possible causes of insomnia can include:

  • another sleep disorder (such as restless legs syndrome or obstructive sleep apnea)
  • anxiety or stress
  • a medical, mental health or developmental condition such as asthma, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism
  • certain medications, such as steroids or antidepressants 
  • caffeine, found in many types of soda and energy drinks

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We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital
300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
For Patients: 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944

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