Bedtime Battle

If you’re a parent who struggles to get your child to go to sleep at night, it can help to determine why your child is experiencing insomnia. Because there are multiple reasons why children don’t fall asleep easily, there are also numerous solutions to consider.

Reasons for Childhood Sleep Difficulties

According to, reasons can range from too much television watching before bed to stress, and from too much caffeine intake to medical reasons and more. Parents typically have to serve as “sleep detectives” to help their children make a connection between daytime habits and sleep challenges, and they may need to seek out medical help for their children if certain underlying conditions exist. Here are more specifics.


A doctor being interviewed by notes that, during the pandemic, she’s seeing more children who are too anxious to fall asleep. She’s also seeing people who are struggling with night terrors and frequent awakening times during the night.

So, it can help to determine if your child’s sleep difficulties are new or have worsened during COVID. If so, anxiety may be playing a role. The pandemic isn’t the only potential source of stress for kids with insomnia, though. They may be feeling worried about school, having problems with friends, struggling to adjust to a new sibling, and so forth. Explore possibilities!


This substance can be found in soda pop, chocolate, and energy drinks—as well as in coffee and tea—and one Australian study, published in the U.S. Library of Medicine, demonstrated a connection between sleep problems in children and their intake of caffeine. More specifically, caffeine use was connected with disruptions in sleep routines, feeling tired in the morning, and restless sleep. If your child consumes caffeine and is having sleep problems, try to cut back past lunchtime or even eliminate caffeine sources to see if it helps.

Medical Issues

Some medications can cause insomnia in children while allergies and other causes of stuffy noses can keep children from breathing well at night. Some children could have sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome.

Establishing Good Bedtime Routines

While paying attention to stress and caffeine triggers described above and watching for possible medical issues that are contributing to insomnia, also work on establishing healthy bedtime routines. According to, it can help to make regular bedtimes and wake-up times a family priority. Explain any new routines to your children, along with how everyone will benefit from better sleep. With young children, picture-based charts of the new schedule may help.

Children typically thrive on routines and, as you make bedtime a special one with its own schedule, children will often begin to look forward to the steps. These can include having a healthy snack and then washing up, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, and hearing a bedtime story. Routines shouldn’t last more than 30 minutes (outside of bath time).

Make sure your child’s bedroom is comfortable at a cool (not cold!) temperature. Children sleep best in dark, quiet rooms; if total darkness feels scary to your child, have a small night light on. Some children sleep better with a favorite blanket or stuffed animal. If your child gets out of bed (“I just need a drink of water”), return them to bed without arguing or giving them extra attention.

Once this routine becomes firmly established, then it should become much easier. If you notice new signs of insomnia, investigate causes. Perhaps there is a new source of stress or other issues that can use some loving time and attention.

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