Insomnia

Insomnia

Check out some strategies for managing insomnia in children. Good sleep habits are really important for children who have problems falling asleep (insomnia).

Key points to remember about managing insomnia

This page is about sleep in primary school children. It's part of a whole section on sleeping sound.

  • good sleep habits are really important for children who have problems falling asleep
  • teaching your child ways to relax can help them fall asleep
  • you can help your child have good thoughts about going to sleep rather than bad ones
  • remove the clock from the bedroom, as your child may be watching it during the night
  • to get on top of insomnia you can temporarily set your child's bedtime later

How can I establish good sleep habits for my child?

Good sleep habits are really important for children who have problems falling asleep (insomnia).

Good habits should include:

  • going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time every day (even on the weekends)
  • avoiding caffeine (often in chocolate bars as well as Coke, tea and coffee)
  • making sure the bedroom is cool, quiet, and fairly dark
  • having a bedtime routine that is calm and helps kids wind down
  • avoiding over-exciting activities before bed like computer games and TV

Remove the clock from the bedroom, as your child may be watching it during the night, adding to their worry about not sleeping.

How can I help my child relax?

Teaching your child ways to relax can help them fall asleep. The following relaxation idea is an example of one you can teach your child. 

Your child lies down with their eyes closed and then tightens and relaxes all the muscles in their body, one after the other. Some children find it helps to do these muscle exercises while thinking about their favourite (relaxing) place such as the beach, or a park in granny’s backyard.

How can I change my child's thoughts about going to sleep?

You can help your child have good thoughts about going to sleep rather than bad ones. For example, instead of saying, "I won't be able to sleep tonight," it is better to think, "Tonight I will just relax and rest at bedtime".

Should I change my child's bedtime?

To get on top of insomnia you can temporarily set your child's bedtime later. For example, if your child usually falls asleep at 11pm set their bedtime to 10.45pm to start with. Being extra sleepy will help your child fall asleep right away and stay asleep. After a couple of nights, the bedtime can be moved forward to 10.30pm. Once your child is able to fall asleep quickly you can then bring their bedtime forward to 10.15pm. Continue this until the desired bedtime is reached.

Should I take my child out of bed?

If your child is still tossing and turning 20 minutes after being taken to bed, let your child leave the bedroom for 20 minutes to do something quiet, such as reading. This helps your child see their bedroom as a place for sleep. This also helps to stop your child from linking their bedroom with not being able to sleep. After 20 minutes take your child back to bed. You may need to repeat this cycle a number of times.

Thumbnail of 'Insomnia' handout

Starship Foundation and the Paediatric Society of New Zealand thank the Centre for Community Child Health at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia, for making this content available to parents and families.

© Copyright – Centre for Community Child Health at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 2014. Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth), no part of this content may be reproduced by a process, electronic or otherwise, without the specific written permission of the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

This page last reviewed 29 April 2020.
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