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Common Sleep Disorders in Children
POSTED 13 Oct 2017

Children need a required minimum amount of sleep for the repair and healing of the body. At some point most children undergo a phase of difficulty in falling asleep but this situation is temporary without any permanent effect. However, there are some children who do have a type of sleep disorder that significantly affects their general well-being and functions.

Independent studies conclude that children with sleep disorders are more likely to have anxiety disorder, depression and behavioral problems. For school-age children, low grades and general lackluster performance in school are likely.

Sleep Disturbance Prevalence

Chronic sleep deprivation in children is a worldwide concern. Based on a study done by the U.S. National Sleep Foundation (NSF) concluded that two children out of three below 10 years old suffer from a type of sleep disorder and are chronically depressed. Surveys conducted by separate groups found out that more than 25% of children aged 1 to 5 suffer from a type of sleep disturbance some of which are nightmares, sleep walking, sleep talking, night terrors, bruxism, sleep rocking and enuresis. The same survey indicated that sleep disorders are most likely to persist from infancy until later childhood.

Categories of Sleep Disorders

There are two physiological categories of sleep disorders in children: dyssomnias and parasomnias. Where dyssomnias pertain to a sleep disorder in which a patient has difficulty falling and maintaining restful sleep. Parasomnias have something to do with the amount and quality of sleep including: narcolepsy or excessive sleepiness, and obstructive sleep apnoea, where the upper airway is obstructed during sleep causing the child to constant awakening during sleep;

On the other hand, there are environmentally-influenced sleep disorders and they are:

  • Limit-setting sleep disorder which pertains to difficulty in getting ready to sleep by stalling or refusing
  • Adjustment sleep disorder is a form of insomnia due to conflict, stress or the environment
  • Nocturnal eating or drinking syndrome is waking up and eating or drinking to be able to go back to sleep
  • Sleep-onset association disorder is when a child cannot go to sleep due to the absence of an object such as a formula bottle, blanket or situation such as dim lights, a companion or being rocked to sleep.

Parasomnias is another type of sleep disorder that pertains to disrupted sleep after it has been initiated. A type of parasomnias partially wakes or wakes up a child due to an event that happens during sleep. The complaint is not on its effect on sleeping or wakefulness but more on the “disturbance. Parasomnias include:

  • sleepwalking – this happens in 1-6% of children and may be aggravated by lack of sleep, fever, and medications
  • sleep terrors – it is experienced by 3-6% of all children and more common in boys. Night terror is characterized by sudden wakening, accompanied by extreme fear and piercing scream.
  • confusional arousal – an episode is characterized by confusion before and after waking up and is

more common in children less than 5 years old

Treatment for Sleep Disorders for Children

The common signs that a child is having sleep problems are:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Snoring
  • Difficulty staying awake during the day
  • Unexplained decrease in daytime performance
  • Breathing pauses during sleep
  • Sleepwalking or nightmares
  • Difficulty in sleeping through the night

It is best to see a pediatrician if your child exhibits any of the following signs of sleep problem. Most of these sleep disorders resolve on its own when a child reaches puberty. However, if they do not, some sleep disorders can be treated by behavioral therapy. If your child’s lack of sleep is due to obstructive sleep apnoea, CPAP therapy is the answer.

Independent studies conclude that children with sleep disorders are more likely to have anxiety disorder, depression and behavioral problems. For school-age children, low grades and general lackluster performance in school are likely.

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