Types of Sleep Disorders in Children
Sleep can be a battle between many parents and their children from the time they are born. This causes many parents to dismiss signs of sleep disorders when their children grow as misbehavior, normal infancy or even blame the diet. These are the common sleep disorders found in infants and children:
This refers to anything abnormal that happens during sleep, other than obstructive sleep apnea. It can take many different forms and often occurs during the sleep cycle, but can also happen as the child is falling asleep. This might manifest as sleepwalking, abrupt or partial awakenings, sleep talking or nightmares.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea or OSA, is often found in adults as an obstruction of the upper airway. The interruption of the respiratory system causes the body to not get sufficient oxygen while sleeping and even causes pauses in breathing altogether.1 In children, the cause is often different and due to enlarged tonsils and adenoids between the ages of 2 and 8. However, it can happen at any time and impacts between 1 and 5 percent of children.2
Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome
Does this scenario sound familiar? A teen falls asleep every night at midnight and has difficulty waking up the next morning at their normal time. While this may seem like typical behavior of that age range, it can actually be a sign of a sleep disorder known as Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome.
This often manifests as narcolepsy, but it is essentially excessive daytime sleepiness. At most extremes, it can be seen as hallucinations and falling asleep at sporadic times during the day.
You may have seen many commercials for restless leg syndrome in adults, but it can occur in children as well. It can also include periodic leg movements, Bruxism or leg cramps. All of which can impact falling or staying asleep, even if the child does not notice these movements.
Because there are many different types of sleep disorders, it can be challenging to pinpoint exactly what your child may have just by their symptoms. It can also be difficult to recognize an issue, as sleep patterns naturally change throughout different developmental changes. However, here are some of the common signs to be aware of if you think your child may have a sleep disorder.
It’s often different from adults because of how it manifests in their behavior, without always being able to tell you what the problem is.
- Comments of feeling like they have bugs crawling on them at night
- Frequent night terrors
- Daytime moodiness
- Lack of focus
- Poor performance in school
- Failure to thrive
- Behavioral problems
Parents are encouraged to seek guidance from their physician about their child’s sleep habits. It is standard practice for doctors to ask about sleep at the well child visit. It may be helpful to keep a diary log of your child’s sleep behaviors before this so you can accurately describe what you have been noticing in their sleep habits for the appointment. Depending on what symptoms you are describing, they may recommend having a sleep study performed to get to the root of the issue. These are simple overnight tests and you are able to accompany your child for the night during the study. Dr. Mostafavi, a sleep expert, says this about their sleep clinics, “We make our in-center sleep studies cozy to ensure you have a normal sleep to get accurate testing.”
Here are some of the treatments often given to children with a sleep disorder.
- Adenoid or tonsil removal (if needed)
- CPAP Therapy (if needed)
- Medications or supplements
- Referral to an Ear Nose and Throat specialist
- Creating an established nighttime routine
- Helping with stress relief
- Creating a sleep-friendly room
How old does my child need to be in order to undergo a sleep study?
We begin conducting sleep studies on children as young as 1 year old.
How much sleep do children need?
The amount needed varies as children grow. For a breakdown of the amount needed at each stage, click here.
Can my child’s education be impacted by their sleep?
Unfortunately, yes. Sleep is incredibly important to brain health. Kids with sleeping problems perform more poorly in both math and language than well-rested students.3
What health issues can be impacted by my child having a sleep disorder?
Early on in childhood, a sleep disorder may lead to obesity, depression and ADHD.
Can I stay with my child for an overnight sleep study?
Absolutely. In fact, we require anyone under the age of 18 to be accompanied by a guardian at all times.
Getting your child’s sleep disorder diagnosed and treated when they are young is vital when it comes to their long-term health prognosis. Let us help get them on the right track to a healthy lifestyle. Contact us today!
- American Academy of Sleep Medicine. International Classification of Sleep Disorders: Diagnostic and Coding Manual. 2nd ed. Westchester, Ill.: American Academy of Sleep Medicine; 2005.
- Marcus CL, Brooks LJ, Draper KA, et al.; American Academy of Pediatrics. Diagnosis and management of childhood obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. Pediatrics. 2012;130(3):e714–e755.
- Luciane Bizari Coin de Carvalho, et al. “Symptoms of sleep disorders and objective academic performance.” Sleep Medicine Journal.