Childhood insomnia. What is it and how to recognize it?

Quality sleep has the effect of restoring the whole body, but also plays a fundamental role in learning, memory and synaptic plasticity. This is why a restful sleep becomes particularly important when talking about children.

However, recent studies state that childhood insomnia is a condition that affects 30% of children under the age of 5, which worries both parents and experts.

In this article, you will learn more about the importance of sleeping at an early age and how food plays a significant role in this matter.

But to begin with, what is sleep and what do we know about insomnia?


Sleep and insomnia. Two sides of the same coin


Before getting into the topic, it is interesting to define what sleep is and what insomnia is.

Sleep is a state of physical and mental rest which allows us to recover and regenerate our immune and endocrine systems. However, in order to achieve it, the quality and quantity of sleep must be optimum.

The amount of sleep varies widely depending on the age, but in the case of children, the normal ones are:

  • Between 11 and 13 hours from 3 /4 years old.
  • Between 10 and 11 hours form 10/11 years old.
  • Between 8 and 10 hours from 13/14 years old.


Nevertheless, these hours are indicative because quality is indeed more important than quantity.

On the other hand, insomnia is the difficulty of falling asleep and maintaining mentioned state.

Having a hard time falling asleep, waking up often, and not getting back to sleep quickly can be signs of insomnia.

As already mentioned, in the case of children, sleep plays an essential part in their development and should therefore be given a particular attention.

Childhood insomnia

Sleep deprivation affects both psychological and physical health and can lead to complications such as: diabetes, metabolic problems, premature aging…

But in children’s case, it also has a cognitive, emotional and learning effects that can influence their proper development.

To determine if your child is suffering from insomnia, pay attention to his/her sleep and rest routine to detect bad habits to be changed.

Causes of childhood insomnia

Some of the most important factors involved childhood insomnia includes:

  1. Sleep habits. Sleep routine (or its absence) is key in a child’s sleep quality. Avoiding the use of monitors and big stimuli before sleeping will help him/her fall asleep faster.
  2. The environment. The amount of light, the temperature, the external noise… are factors that can affect sleeping. Try to attenuate the lights at home and create a calm and serene atmosphere before bedtime.
  3. Late naps. Avoid long naps, the more the child stays awake, the easier he/she will fall asleep.


These causes can influence and manifest in several ways, including:

  • Difficulty in falling asleep. When a child takes more than 30 minutes to fall asleep.
  • He/she wakes up often. More than 3 times at night.
  • He/she wakes up and has troubles falling back asleep; demanding your attention.
  • During the day he/she is sleepy.
  • Presents mood swings.
  • Trouble paying attention at school.


If you detect some of these symptoms, it is better to visit a doctor to determinate if it is something punctual or extended over time. In case it is extended, the doctor will determinate the best treatment.

However, the fact that your child suffers from childhood insomnia does not mean that you cannot make small changes to improve his or her sleep quality.

Food, in fact, also plays an important role in all this. Read on to know how food affects sleep and which products you can include in his/her diet.


How nutrition improves the quality of sleep


Foods may have a positive or negative effect on rest, so it is important to know which ones include and which ones avoid or eliminate.

Foods that help your child sleep better

Among the foods that help children asleep you can find:

  • Milk and milk products. This is due to the nutrients they contain such as tryptophan, which helps us produce serotonin, which contributes to the production of melatonin (a sleep hormone).
  • Fruits and vegetables. They provide carotenes and polyphenols that enhance the quality of sleep. In addition, they help regulate the intestine which promotes metabolism and thus rest.
  • Blue fish. Because of its high level of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • Other foods such as turkey, chicken, eggs, pumpkin seeds and leafy veggies.

Foods that promote childhood insomnia

  • Stimulants such as chocolates, sugar or caffeinated beverages, such as soft drinks. They are totally discouraged in children because they not only affect sleep, but can affect their health in other aspects.
  • Fats and fried foods. They are totally the opposite of fruits and vegetables since their digestion is heavier and makes sleep not as restful as it should be.


Melatonin, is this the remedy for insomnia?

If you have search for more information about insomnia, you must have heard about melatonin and its effect on it.

Melatonin is a hormone that we naturally produce when there is little light and induces us to a perfect state to start sleeping at night.

This is why, many specialists recommend its use for a better sleep, but what happens in the case of childhood insomnia?

The truth is that there are not a lot of studies about it and before giving melatonin to your child you should visit a doctor or pediatrician. However, it is important to know that the consumption is not indicated in children under 6 months old.

We hope this article has helped you learn more about what influences childhood insomnia and how you should act if you suspect your child may suffer from it.

See you in the next article,



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