Complexities With Management of Insomnia in Children and Adolescents: Judith Owens, MD


The professor of neurology in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School provided insight on current management of insomnia for children and adolescents, and where improvements could be made. [WATCH TIME: 3 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 3 minutes

"It is absolutely critical to understand and apply behavioral intervention. That can range from infants and toddlers, for example. We teach the caregivers how to, in turn, teach their young children how to fall asleep independently, and that will help them remain asleep without parental intervention."

Insomnia in children can begin at any time, from infancy through adolescence, and in some cases can develop into a long-term problem. Symptoms of the disorder include bedtime refusal and struggles going to bed, difficulty falling asleep once in bed, frequency or prolonged night wakings with difficulty returning to sleep, waking earlier than desired, and many others. The root cause for insomnia in this age group can vary, and may potentially be a result from another sleep disorder, anxiety or stress, certain medications, such as steroids or antidepressants, or caffeine.

Insomnia may also stem from a medical, mental health, or developmental condition such as asthma, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or autism. At the 2023 SLEEP Annual Meeting, held June 3-7, in Indianapolis, Indiana, Judith Owens, MD, gave a presentation on the pharmacotherapy considerations for children and adolescents in the management of insomnia. In her talk, she stressed that medications need to be combined with behavioral interventions, which contain the most empirical evidence and have less adverse event profiles.

Owens, a professor of neurology in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, sat down with NeurologyLive® at the meeting to provide an overview of her talk, and some of the notable take-home points clinicians should be aware of. In addition, she provided insight on the current management strategies for children and adolescents with insomnia, and where improvements need to be made.

Click here for more coverage of SLEEP 2023.

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