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HomeHealth articlespediatric sleep disorderWhat Is a Limit-Setting Sleep Disorder?

Limit Setting Sleep Disorder - What Is It and How to Manage It?

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3 min read


When a child's parents struggle to instill healthy sleeping habits and maintain bedtime boundaries, limit setting disorder results. Read the article to learn more.

Written by

Dr. Shikha

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Veerabhadrudu Kuncham

Published At November 30, 2022
Reviewed AtMarch 13, 2023


Insomnia is the inability to fall or stay asleep, and it may be brought on by behavioral factors. Children need a regular bedtime routine and a peaceful sleeping environment as part of the fundamental rules for good sleep hygiene. Lack of parentally enforced sleep rules can lead to bedtime battles as the bedroom turns into a battleground.

What Is a Behavioral Insomnia Problem?

Children who struggle with behavioral sleep issues, also known as behavioral insomnia, may fight to go to bed or refuse to go to sleep, have trouble falling asleep, or wake up repeatedly through the night. All of these problems are widespread among youngsters and frequently have a negative impact on both the caregivers' and the kids' quality of life. While most kids have brief bouts of insomnia every now and then, chronic insomnia increases the risk of mood and behavior issues, scholastic failure, and even deteriorated health conditions.

Medical conditions, such as medications, pain, and primary sleep disorders like, restless legs syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea may also contribute to sleep issues, either directly or by creating circumstances that encourage unhealthy sleep habits (such as irregular sleep-wake patterns) or unfavorable sleep onset associations (for example, needing a parent present in order to fall asleep).

What Is a Limit-Setting Sleep Disorder?

Limit setting problem happens when a child's parents or guardians struggle to establish and uphold bedtime boundaries and appropriate sleep patterns. As a result, the child balks at or delays going to bed. Sleep will be stalled and may not be sufficient to meet the child's sleep demands if boundaries are not established and upheld consistently. Insufficient sleep may result in behavioral issues during the day.

The youngster may employ a variety of frequently inventive tactics to oppose the imposition of limits. Some of these stall strategies include sobbing, outbursts, asking numerous questions, throwing objects, making unnecessarily frequent trips to the restroom, requesting drinks or extra hugs, and claiming to have something important to say. Returning the youngster to bed could cause behavioral outbursts.

Younger kids lack the maturity to understand how much sleep they need or when it is not being met. They would not likely adhere to a regular sleep pattern if alone and would instead doze off whenever they feel sleepy. The child will want to remain up if they believe they will miss out on something enjoyable. Bedtimes may differ from day to day, disrupting the circadian cycle of sleep. Setting suitable bedtimes and enforcing them every day, particularly on the weekends, is the responsibility of the parents. The children should ideally have enough time to fulfill their sleep requirements.

How to Manage Limit-Setting Sleep Disorder in Children?

Behavioral insomnia in childhood (BIC) of the limit-setting type is managed by the earlier indicated excellent sleep hygiene measures, such as establishing a regular bedtime, evaluating sleep schedules (for example, avoiding late afternoon naps), and consistent parental limit-setting. Parents should try to set a bedtime that corresponds with their child's normal bedtime.

Resuming parental duties and establishing boundaries for the child's behavior are the obvious solutions. Consistency is necessary for this. It may be challenging at first, particularly if the child is pleading for the presence of the parent or guardian. With the child, clear bedtime rules should be established, such as staying in bed and not calling out for the parents. Bedtime complaints should be disregarded. There are a few straightforward rules one could follow:

  1. Daily enforcement of bedtimes is necessary. To lessen difficulties between bedtime and sleep onset, the "bedtime fading" method may be used, in which the bedtime is initially set at the present bedtime and gradually brought forward to the desired bedtime. Make an effort to give the youngster enough time in bed to suit his or her sleep demands. If one puts the child to bed too early, they will not feel sleepy and struggle to fall asleep, causing them to wake up early and cause a disturbance in the home. As the child gets older, it should be kept in mind that these needs for sleep will gradually decrease.

  2. Quiet activities like bathing, brushing teeth, and reading bedtime stories should be done 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime. Each activity should only be done for a certain amount of time to avoid becoming a delay technique. So that the child understands what to expect and what will happen next, try to maintain consistency in the routine.

  3. Demands that are unreasonable during the hour before and after bedtime should not be accommodated. This entails refraining from bringing in requested toys, bringing in drinks or food, or giving in to attention-seeking cries. If the child gets out of bed, check on them briefly, give them assurance, then put them back to bed. Some kids may initially exhibit a momentary deterioration of their behavior. It is advised for caregivers to always be consistent and firm.

  4. Following these rules can help the kids have realistic expectations, and they will behave more appropriately as a result. Positive reinforcement for appropriate bedtime behaviors, such as sticker charts, may inspire the youngster and may also be beneficial for older kids.

  5. Parents could ask their pediatrician for assistance if they still have trouble getting their children to bed. Sometimes, talking about these issues with a board-certified sleep specialist can be beneficial.


It is crucial to have a regular bedtime routine and very specific behavioral rules for bedtime if the child struggles with setting limits at bedtime. Parents should concentrate on developing a soothing bedtime routine; the transition to sleep, however, can call for a more "serious" attitude. They can avoid unintentionally encouraging their child's "delay habits" by responding to their tardiness at bedtime in a strict and regular manner. Setting limits both during the day and at night is crucial. Making a system of behavioral reinforcement that offers rewards for the child's cooperation with bedtime and staying in bed all night long may be useful.

Dr. Veerabhadrudu Kuncham
Dr. Veerabhadrudu Kuncham



pediatric sleep disorderlimit setting sleep disorder
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