Having a child who struggles with sleep is hard.
Hard on the child, who may be exhausted and anxious and hard on you because your sleep has been affected too. In most cases when a child is not sleeping, the whole family becomes sleep deprived.
If this sounds like your family, you’re not alone. 20%-30% of school-age children experience significant sleep difficulties at some point. For kids with ADHD or Autism the incidence is even higher.
The good news is there is help. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a non-medication based treatment that is effective in helping to improve child and adult sleep alike.
What to do when your child has a sleep problem?
First, it’s important to make sure that there are no underlying medical conditions at the root of the problem, so make an appointment with your child’s doctor if you haven’t already done so.
If your doctor has determined that your child’s difficulty with sleep is not due to a medical problem then CBT is a good next step.
CBT is an effective, evidence based approach to improving child sleep. The process involves coaching parents on the factors that promote good sleep in children as well as discussing strategies that can be used at home to help your child quiet a busy or worried mind and go to sleep.
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Remaining asleep
- Early morning wakings
- Sleeping alone
As an experienced occupational therapist who has used CBT with parents both in individual sessions and in sleep workshops offered by Sick Kids Hospital, I have seen the positive difference this approach can make. I’ve included a couple of research papers below.
On a personal note as a parent of 3 children, 1 with special needs, I know first hand how difficult life becomes when sleep is a struggle. I also know how essential getting support is. CBT based strategies work.
If you would like to discuss the sleep challenges being experienced in your family, I’m happy to offer a complimentary 20 minute phone discussion to explore your concerns and discuss whether CBT is the right approach. Please reach out to me at (416) 904-6331 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up time to talk.
If you belong to a parent group that would like to host a child sleep workshop, contact me and we can discuss the details.
What to expect after CBT
Research supports that a well rested child is better able to focus and learn at school, cope with difficult emotions, demonstrate improvement in behaviour and even make healthier food choices!
Not only that but once a child’s sleep improves, sleep for the rest of the family is less disrupted and everyone can get the sleep they need.
75-90 minute comprehensive assessment $260
50 minute treatment sessions $175
Two part child sleep workshop $425 per family
– involves two 3 hour group sessions
(Private booking by a parent group requires a minimum of 5 families)
Occupational therapy is covered under some insurance plans. Check with your provider to determine coverage
Paine S, Gradisar M. A randomised controlled trial of cognitive- behaviour therapy for behavioural insomnia of childhood in school-aged children. Behav Res Ther 2011; 49: 379–388, doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2011.03.008. link
Schlarb AA, Bihlmaier I, Velten-Schurian K, Poets CF, Hautzinger M. Short- and long-term effects of cbt-i in groups for school-age children suffering from chronic insomnia: The Kiss-program. Behav Sleep Med 2016; 1–21, doi: 10.1080/ 15402002.2016.1228642. link