Sleep problems in children and insomnia in adulthood

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Experts say electronic screens in bedrooms can be a major contributor to sleep difficulties in children.
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  • Researchers say nearly half of children in one study had insomnia that persisted into adulthood.
  • Experts say that lack of sleep can affect children’s behavior as well as their performance in school.
  • They recommend that parents establish regular bedtime routines for young children and limit screen time for older children in the hours before bedtime.

At some point, most parents struggle to put their children to sleep or have to soothe a youngster who wakes up in the middle of the night.

It’s normal.

But when these difficulties persist, it may be important to seek professional help before an episode of childhood insomnia turns into permanent sleep problems, according to a new study.

Researchers at Penn State University College of Medicine report that nearly half of the children (43%) studied had insomnia that persisted into adulthood.

The researchers also found that children with insomnia were more than twice as likely to have insomnia as adults compared to children with more normal sleep patterns.

Teens with sleep problems were also more likely to suffer from insomnia as adults than their peers.

One of the main takeaways is that while insomnia in children often resolves, almost as often it doesn’t.

Only about half of American children get enough sleep each night.

“Early sleep interventions are a health priority because pediatricians should not expect insomnia symptoms to resolve during development in a high proportion of children,” the study authors write.

But what motivates insomnia in children and adolescents?

“Childhood insomnia can be caused by a plethora of reasons,” said Nicole Avena, PhD, associate professor of neuroscience at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine and author of the book “Why Diets Fail.”

“Some may include medical or mental health issues including asthma or ADHD, other sleep syndromes such as breathing problems or restless leg syndrome, childhood stressors or feelings anxiety,” she told Healthline.

“Sleep is a necessary downtime for our brain and body,” Avena said. “Without it, children can have stunted growth, poor digestion and mental illness. In adulthood, this may manifest as [gastrointestinal] troubles, including [irritable bowel syndrome]poor metabolic function leading to increased adiposity and diagnosis of disorders like depression and anxiety.

“In everyday life, these issues will affect both children and adults in their performance at school or at work and their ability to engage in physical activity,” she said.

But while parents of young children often closely monitor their children’s sleep out of necessity, researchers have found an even stronger link between adolescent insomnia and adult insomnia.

This may be partly because the parents are missing some of the signs.

“Adolescent insomnia can often go unnoticed because parents might think their child’s sleep difficulties are part of adolescence,” said Fiona C. Baker, PhD, director of the Center for Health Sciences at SRI. International in California. “Insomnia in adolescents remains underdiagnosed and undertreated.”

If your child is having trouble sleeping, you can start by making adjustments at home before seeking professional help.

“We know that light exposure plays an important role in regulating circadian rhythms,” Natalie Dautovich, PhD, environmental fellow at the National Sleep Foundation, told Healthline.

“Data shows that 89% of adults and 75% of children have at least one electronic device in their bedroom, which contributes to the likelihood of developing insomnia and having poor sleep quality,” he said. she declared.

The recommendation is to closely monitor and limit your children’s use of devices before bedtime.

In young children, having a set routine can also help them sleep.

“The lack of bedtime rules is also detrimental to children’s sleep,” Dautovich said. “Children whose parents enforce bedtime rules sleep 1.1 hours longer than children whose parents do not enforce the rules, including waking up and going to bed at the same time every day and finish eating and drinking 2-3 hours before going to bed.”

For teenagers, determining whether or not they have insomnia is a little trickier, although the same advice applies.

“Parents should be aware that sleep deprivation is common in adolescence and can easily be confused with insomnia,” Baker said.

“For example, since teenagers tend to stay up late to play video games or participate in social media activities, they usually have to wake up early in the morning for school and other obligations. Against this background, chronic sleep deprivation emerges that has symptoms similar to insomnia, including daytime sleepiness or problems concentrating,” she said.

Sleep problems in children and insomnia in adulthood

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