Good sleep is a pillar of optimal well-being for adults and children alike. Sleep issues and school anxiety often go hand in hand: not only does anxiety cause sleep disturbances, but the reverse can be true as well. If your child has trouble sleeping, getting to the root of the cause is the first step in improving the situation.
What Can Cause Insomnia in Children?
Stress and anxiety can lead to insomnia in children and teens, but there are other causes as well:
- Substances like caffeine and sugar
- Certain medications
- Physical ailments such as asthma, muscle cramps and heartburn
- Blue light from electronic devices interferes with circadian rhythms and results in sleep disturbances
- Neurodevelopmental issues, like ADHD and Asperger Syndrome (now considered a part of ASD)
Is School Anxiety the Culprit?
Determining if school anxiety is causing your child’s insomnia involves both looking for specific signs of anxiety and ruling out other insomnia causes. Some behaviors, like moodiness, can be caused by both sleep deprivation and anxiety, but others are more specific to anxiety, such as clinginess, school refusal, tantrums and inflexibility. If you don’t see signs of anxiety, consider other insomnia red flags such as snoring, breathing pauses during sleep, injury or illness, or see a medical professional to rule out physical ailments that may be contributing factors.
Sleep Issues and Anxiety: A Two-Way Street
Most people have been kept awake by worry at one time or another. Racing thoughts and relentless stress prevent our minds from settling into sleep, so it’s easy to see the connection between anxiety and your child’s insomnia. Interestingly, the reverse is also true. Studies suggest that insufficient sleep may contribute to mental health issues. This doesn’t mean that sleep disruption will cause your child to develop a psychiatric disorder, but it could mean that insomnia is making your child anxious.
Solving the Anxiety Insomnia Issue
When dealing with two issues that contribute to each other, such as school anxiety and sleep disruption, use a two-pronged approach to address each issue. Some strategies, such as schedule management, consistent routine, healthy diet and regular exercise, help with both school anxiety and sleep deprivation. Be sure to address both issues, because if you ignore one, it may continue to contribute to the other.
To address sleep issues, try limiting screen time, heavy meals and caffeine intake before bed, and make sure that your child’s room is dimly lit and quiet at night. Try to establish an evening wind down routine that promotes relaxation. Ensure that your child has enough activity and sunlight during the day to be ready for sleep at nighttime.
Talk to your child about school. Build regular conversation time into each day when you can talk about issues that might be causing stress. Meet with your child’s teacher to discuss potential anxiety-provoking scenarios that could be affecting your child, such as social dynamics, classroom activities or bullying. Teach your child anxiety management strategies such as breathing exercises and re-framing thoughts. Respect your child’s feelings and try working through them together.
If your child struggles with anxious feelings, contact Brain Balance Achievement Centers. We can help address the underlying causes of their challenges and help get them back on track so they can succeed at school and at home.
For over a decade, we’ve helped over 30,000 children improve the critical skills needed to create a brighter path for their future. Contact us online to learn more about how the Brain Balance Program can help. You can also view the research and results of the program on the website.