Sleep is a vital component of a child’s health and wellbeing: Getting enough sleep helps children grow, learn, stay healthy, and function at their best. But just like adults, children of all ages — including infants — are prone to a range of sleep disorders and disturbances, sometimes with far-reaching consequences. At SleepCues, a top-rated sleep medicine practice with locations in Wilson, Raleigh, and Clayton, North Carolina, our board-certified sleep expert Dr. Domingo Rodriguez-Cué provides comprehensive solutions for patients of all ages. To learn more, call or book your appointment online today.
At any given time, as many as 25-30% of infants and children in the United States experience some type of sleep disturbance, often due to a chronic medical condition or a temporary problem.
Pediatric sleep disorders can be as simple as having trouble settling into sleep or not getting enough sleep in a 24-hour cycle; snoring and sleepwalking are also relatively common among younger patients.
Children can also be affected by more serious sleep disorders.
Children with insomnia either have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, even when conditions are otherwise conducive to sleep. Habits that disrupt a normal sleep cycle, such as lack of a set bedtime, daytime naps that are too long and stimulating activities before bedtime can all contribute to pediatric insomnia.
This type of sleep disorder occurs when a child partially arouses from a deep sleep, causing a shift into a so-called “confusional arousal” where the child appears to be simultaneously awake and asleep or both alert and disoriented.
Children, who are affected by a sleep arousal disorder, are usually unresponsive to their parents or surroundings and have little to no recall of the event in the morning.
As with adult sleep apnea, pediatric sleep apnea is a disorder in which a child’s respiration is restricted when the soft tissue at the back of their throat blocks their airway partially or completely.
Although any child can develop sleep apnea, it’s more likely to affect children who are overweight or obese, have enlarged adenoids and tonsils or have a structural abnormality in their nose or throat.
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) causes an irrepressible urge to move the legs while at rest, usually because they feel achy or uncomfortable. Although leg movement offers temporary relief from these unpleasant sensations, it also causes frequent awakenings throughout the night.
Research shows that insufficient sleep as well as poor sleep quality during childhood are associated with a wide range of significant problems, including:
Because many of the most common signs of insufficient sleep in children are similar to the symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), sleep deprivation is sometimes confused with ADHD in children.
Pediatric sleep problems can do more than make a child sleepy, irritable and unfocused, which can impact family dynamics and interfere with parent or their sibling’s sleep.
Left untreated, children with chronic sleep disorders may become obese, develop high blood pressure or experience stunted growth.
Finding the right solution to any pediatric sleep disorder starts with an investigation and a proper diagnosis. For Dr. Cué, the first step in any successful treatment plan is to set expectations regarding normal pediatric sleep patterns — often behavior modification is the most important treatment strategy.