a woman staring down a teddy bear in bed

Did Childhood Sleep Patterns Predict My Insomnia?

Last updated: January 2021

Growing up, I remember my parents always telling “funny” stories about my sleeping patterns from the time I was a toddler. They’d joke about how they’d put me to bed in one spot, and I’d wake up in a completely different part of the bed, blanket on backward or stuffed animal thrown across the room.

Then they’d talk about how I would sit straight up, sometimes out of what seemed like a cold sleep, speak in gibberish for a few minutes, and then lay back down again.

I used to laugh about these things, about how restless I was during the night, how the sheets always looked like they’d been manually twisted and tangled, and the fact that I’d never remember these things when I woke up, even as I got older.

My parents tried to help my sleep

Though elementary and middle school, I remember my parents played with the placement of my bed in my bedroom, rearranging the furniture to help me “sleep better.”

They wondered if it was too close to the light coming from the window, or the sound coming from down the hall; they wondered if it was too close or too far from the air vent, etc...

They tried so hard to help me fall asleep faster and stay asleep more successfully. I always feel bad that I wasn’t able to succeed.

I never outgrew my sleep trouble

I was diagnosed with insomnia at the beginning of high school, nearly 20 years ago, and have tried so many things to manage it since then. Looking back, it feels like it has to have been related - my sleep disruptions in childhood and my anxiety about sleep as I grew

While many youngsters may struggle with good sleep due to regulation of internal clocks, feelings about and routines surrounding bedtime, etc., I never seemed to have outgrown mine.

By the time I was diagnosed, I had a decent amount of stress in my life (recent death of a loved one, parents divorce), and remained a high strung, type A personality as I grew.

Did patterns predict my sleep disorder?

My insomnia has grown through some different stages as my life has shifted from childhood to adult, but I’ve never grown out of the suspicion that my patterns as a kid predicted my sleep disorder long before I could communicate it efficiently.

Currently, I utilize sleep hygiene and routine, along with prescription medication as needed, and I’d say my insomnia is more manageable than it once was. It’s still discouraging at times, but I certainly look at it through a different lens now that I’m a mother.

Looking at my daughter's sleep

As I watch my own daughter move around her crib, I wonder if she’ll walk a path similar to mine. Since her newborn days, I’ve worked hard to keep sleep as routine as possible, using the same sound machine, the same pj’s, the same nighttime song. She likes predictability, and it helps me make bedtime a soothing, calm environment for her.

I try not to put pressure on how long it takes her to fall asleep after I leave the room or how much she moves in the crib during the night, but the back of my mind periodically wonders if she’s resting well and if she’ll grow out of these behaviors unlike me.

Did you show signs of sleep disturbance when you were younger, or have you watched your kids do the same? I’d love to hear your stories!

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