3 Quick Facts about Childhood Insomnia

Connecticut Children’s Medical Center’s “Bedtime Doctor” Lynelle Schneeberg, PsyD, joins our blog to share some fast facts about childhood insomnia.

Preparing her to sleepConnecticut Children’s Sleep Center works with many families each year to improve their child’s insomnia. Insomnia refers to trouble falling asleep or trouble staying asleep. Here are three quick facts about childhood insomnia that may help improve your child’s ability to fall and stay asleep in this new year.

1.) Not every child with insomnia requires a sleep study
Many parents think that a child with insomnia needs a sleep study. However, most children (unless they have very obvious symptoms of sleep apnea, such as witnessed pauses in breathing or loud snoring) do not need a sleep study. Most childhood insomnia can be improved with a better bedtime routine (see below).

2.) Having a parent present while the child is falling asleep can negatively impact the child’s ability to sleep deeply
Parents often ask, “Why does my child fall asleep quickly at bedtime but have difficulty staying asleep?” This problem is common and is often due to the fact that the parent is present at bedtime in the child’s room while the child is falling asleep. The parent then leaves. When the child wakes up again during the night, as all children do, the child must then call out or come and find the parent in order to fall back to sleep because that’s the only way they know how to fall asleep (when a parent is present).

3.) Granting last minute requests at bedtime does more harm than good
It is common for a child to ‘stall’ at bedtime and or make lots of additional requests after the bedtime routine is supposed to be over. Their child might want “one more hug” or perhaps another bedtime story. One child might want to make lots more trips to the bathroom while another child might want their parents to check under the bed or fix their blanket just so. These extra requests often go on for a long period of time. Many parents think that if they grant all of these requests, their child will then finally fall asleep. However, granting all of these requests after lights out actually rewards the child for staying awake (by giving the child lots of extra attention when the bedtime routine should actually be over). There are some really simple ways to make sure that your child has everything he or she needs at bedtime but that also allow you, as a parent, to set some reasonable limits.

The Sleep Center at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center can help design and customize a “new and improved” bedtime routine for your family. The new routine will be designed to improve childhood insomnia by helping your child learn to fall asleep independently and in their own room. This goal is accomplished gradually over time so that the process will not be overly disruptive or upsetting to your child. The bedtime routine will also have some steps for you, the parents, to help with limit setting at bedtime while still ensuring that your child has everything he or she needs to fall asleep quickly, easily and peacefully.

If you think that your family could benefit from a new bedtime routine, please call the Sleep Center at (860) 837-6643 to make an appointment with Dr. Lynelle Schneeberg, our behavioral sleep specialist.

*Register for Dr. Schneeberg’s free, educational sleep webinar on January 19th at 12:15pm. Visit www.ctchildrenswebinar.com to learn more.