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When Sleep Becomes Elusive for Your Child

When Sleep Becomes Elusive for Your Child


When Sleep Becomes Elusive for Your Child


Insomnia, or the inability to fall or stay asleep, isn’t unique to adults. Children can suffer from it too. One study cites that about 27 percent of children aren’t getting enough sleep for their age. According to a National Sleep Foundation (NSF) poll, “more than two out of every three children ages 10 and under have experienced some type of sleep problem.”

If you have a child who is “counting sheep” at night and being cranky during the day, don’t take the matter lightly. Sleep is an important restorative process that is vital for proper growth and development. There’s a price to pay when your child can’t get enough sleep. This is why you must not trivialize sleep problems in growing children.


Is It Insomnia?

According to WebMD, “Insomnia is a disruption of the sleep cycle that includes difficulties with getting to sleep, difficulty staying asleep, and possibly early morning awakenings.” You need not worry if it is just for a few nights. If it has become a chronic or long-term condition, however, it is important to find the triggering factors so you can act on them before your child pays the heavy toll of sleep deprivation. Insomnia can be considered chronic when it occurs at least three times a week for one month or more.

When should you seek help? It is important to bring your child to a therapist if sleep deprivation has affected your child’s daytime functioning. Thus, it is important to recognize the symptoms, such as “irritability, mood swings, hyperactivity, depressed mood, aggressiveness, a decreased attention span, and memory problems.” Considering the wide range of possible sleep patterns among children of different ages, recognizing the symptoms of insomnia can be challenging. This is among the important things that a therapist can reliably do for your child.

A therapist can also help assess the origin of your child’s sleeplessness. Insomnia that is due to an emotional condition can be addressed by a therapist who is trained in cognitive and behavioral therapy. This is a widely accepted approach for children. The use of medications is not a first option for children because of side effects.

Repercussions of Sleep Deprivation in Children

An illuminating study at Northwestern University Medical Center revealed that “less sleep at night means more behavioral problems during the day.” Sleep deprivation over time can result in sleep debt and a range of concerns—irritability, inattentiveness, hyperactivity, behavioral issues, and poor control of impulses—leading to a poor overall quality of life.

Considering the symptoms, like decreased attention span and memory issues, it isn’t unusual for sleep-deprived children to perform poorly in school, or to commit frequent errors resulting in accidents. Meanwhile, if they are irritable and sleepy most of the time, they are unlikely to enjoy interacting with people at home and school.

Poor sleep is also a symptom of a number of emotional conditions, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and ADHD. The National Sleep Foundation says that people with insomnia “have a ten-fold risk of developing depression compared with those who sleep well.” In addition, sleep deprivation is linked to various health issues for children and adolescents, including obesity, heart conditions, stroke, and diabetes.

Treating Insomnia in Children

There is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment or answer to your child’s insomnia. Their issues may change as they grow older; the factors that contribute to insomnia are different for young children, in the tween years, and when they enter puberty and adolescence. You are, however, in a position to help your child. The first thing to do is identify what is triggering your child’s sleeplessness. Is it a behavioral thing or caused by poor sleeping habits? Is a medical or emotional condition making your child sleep less? Is it a side effect of a medication he or she is taking? These are just some of the possible triggers of sleep deprivation in children. To best assess your child’s sleep issues, it would be best to bring your child to a professional.

Some causes can be easily managed by parents, once identified. Some causes or contributing factors are more difficult to address, especially if they are medical or emotional/psychological. Insomnia can be among the signs that you need to seek professional help from a child therapist. Therapy can be an invaluable way to help your little one get adequate sleep.

A counselor/therapist can also help empower you as a parent to better address your child’s sleep issues. When you try to get your little one to sleep night after night, over time you are likely to become sleep deprived too. It can affect your mood, health, and disposition. You may fare better if you are guided by a therapist to establish a healthier bedtime routine and sleep patterns for your child, which may require imposing new rules.

Recapturing Sleep on the Way to Attaining Your Child’s Potential

The health benefits of sleep are widely studied and documented. Not getting enough sleep can have many repercussions for the health and life of your child. Because sleep boosts the growth of connections in your child’s brain, sleep deprivation can hinder learning and development, preventing them from attaining their full potential. This is why you should not delay seeking help from Carolina Counseling Services — Pittsboro, NC.

It isn’t wise to assume that insomnia is a passing phase your child will eventually outgrow. It is more constructive to address the problem early on with the help of an experienced therapist you can trust. Call Carolina Counseling Services — Pittsboro, NC, to find the helping hand to empower you and treat your child. The therapist will discuss possible treatment options with you and help you make an informed decision so your child can finally recapture sleep and realize their dreams.


Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Pittsboro, NC

Counties: Chatham, Alamance, Durham, Harnett, Lee, Moore, Orange, Randolph, Wake, NC
Areas: Pittsboro NC, Gulf NC, Hickory Mountain NC, Hadley NC, Siler City NC, Wilsonville NC, Fearrington NC, Mandale NC, Bear Creek NC, Albright NC
Zip Codes: 27312, 27344, 27207, 27228, 27256, 27559


Gail Gustafson, MSW, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 9+) Adolescents and Adults, Individuals, Couples and Families. PTSD/Trauma, EMDR, Adoption, Drug/Alcohol/Substance Abuse addiction, Anxiety, Depression, Bi-polar, Life Transitions, Grief and Loss, Parenting, Family, couples and marriage counseling.
 Insurance: BCBS, Tricare/ Tricare Prime Tricare Select/Extra/Retired and Cash (Credit Cards Accepted, HSA and FSA )
 Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

Counseling Information

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Carolina Counseling Services - Pittsboro, NC
68 Fayetteville St.
Pittsboro, NC 27312

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PO BOX 9909
Fayetteville, NC 28311