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Insomnia in childhood and adolescence: clinical aspects, diagnosis, and therapeutic approach Please cite this article as: Nunes ML, Bruni O. Insomnia in childhood and adolescence: clinical aspects, diagnosis, and therapeutic approach. J Pediatr (Rio J). 2015;91:S26-35.



To review the clinical characteristics, comorbidities, and management of insomnia in childhood and adolescence.


This was a non-systematic literature review carried out in the PubMed database, from where articles published in the last five years were selected, using the key word “insomnia” and the pediatric age group filter. Additionally, the study also included articles and classic textbooks of the literature on the subject.

Data synthesis:

During childhood, there is a predominance of behavioral insomnia as a form of sleep-onset association disorder (SOAD) and/or limit-setting sleep disorder. Adolescent insomnia is more associated with sleep hygiene problems and delayed sleep phase. Psychiatric (anxiety, depression) or neurodevelopmental disorders (attention deficit disorder, autism, epilepsy) frequently occur in association with or as a comorbidity of insomnia.


Insomnia complaints in children and adolescents should be taken into account and appropriately investigated by the pediatrician, considering the association with several comorbidities, which must also be diagnosed. The main causes of insomnia and triggering factors vary according to age and development level. The therapeutic approach must include sleep hygiene and behavioral techniques and, in individual cases, pharmacological treatment.

Insomnia; Sleep disorders; Childhood; Adolescence

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