Insomnia Disorder in Children and Adolescents

ICD-10 Code: G47.00

Insomnia disorder is part of a cluster of diagnoses called the sleep-wake disorders.  Sleep-wake disorders are a group of psychiatric conditions that include:

  • Insomnia Disorder
  • Hypersomnolence Disorder
  • Non-Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Arousal Disorder
  • Nightmare Disorder

These disorders are broadly characterized by disruptions in sleep and wakefulness.  Individuals with insomnia disorder have frequent difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.  Individuals with hypersomnolence disorder feel excessively sleepy during the day, despite obtaining what for most people would be a full night of sleep.  Individuals with parasomnias such as non-rapid eye movement sleep arousal disorder and nightmare disorder experience unusual behaviors while sleeping, such as sleep walking, or vivid and disturbing dreams or night terrors.  

Some sleep-wake disorders, including insomnia disorder and hypersomnolence disorder, are associated with disturbances in the amount of time the individual spends asleep (too much or too little) or the times at which the individual sleeps (often outside of the desired sleeping window).  Other disorders, such as the parasomnias, are not associated with disturbances in the quantity or timing of sleep per se, but are instead associated with behavioral disturbances during sleep or frequent highly distressing dreams.

What is Insomnia Disorder?

The exact epidemiology of insomnia disorder is unknown, but approximately 10 - 25% of children and adolescents report at least some insomnia symptoms and approximately 5% report chronic insomnia.  Insomnia disorder is characterized by a dissatisfaction with the quantity or quality of sleep related to one or more of the following:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Awakening much earlier than intended
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Understanding Insomnia Disorder

Insomnia disorder severity can range from mild to severe.  In the short term, insomnia disorder can lead to daytime symptoms such as irritability or impaired concentration that may impair school performance.  In the long term, severe untreated insomnia disorder can lead to physical and mental health complications, including major depressive disorder and cardiac disease.

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How is Insomnia Disorder Treated?

Insomnia disorder is treatable.  Task force consensus guidelines include those published in the journals Pediatrics and Pediatric Clinics of North America.

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