Sleep disorders in children are usually the result of a medical condition. They are not to be confused with sleep deprivation in children because of unhealthy sleep hygiene such as not going to bed early enough, a diet that includes caffeine and sugar, or inactivity.
Many children are not getting enough sleep because they are staying up too late or getting up too early. This is sleep deprivation - not a sleep disorder. When we lived in Minnesota, hockey was really big. Because we had one indoor ice hockey rink, grade school kids sometimes had their practice from 9:00 - 10:00 PM on week nights. You can be sure the teachers knew exactly which kids were not getting enough sleep, not because of a sleep disorder, but because they were not getting to bed early enough.
However, if you are a parent that ensures the child is not only getting to bed at a designated time but also falling asleep, yet is showing symptoms of sleep deprivation, your child may have a sleep disorder.
If you suspect a sleep disorder in your child, try to observe daytime behavior or watch and listen to the child while the child is sleeping. At night pay special attention to the breathing. Does it start and stop. Does the child snore. Also watch for cues during the day and pay attention to the activity and energy level.
Does the child act tired or tell you that they are tired. Does he/she fall asleep at school, on the bus or while watching TV? Is the child too tired to play outside and ride a bike or play a ball game? Are their concerns at school or at home regarding the ability to focus, pay attention or to comprehend new material.
Is the child often irritable and exhibit behavior that makes the child difficult to get along with. Behavior problems and the inability to control impulses are other signs that the child may not be getting enough sleep or deep restorative sleep.
If you are certain that your child is getting the number of hours of sleep needed for his/her age, yet your child is tired during the day, your child may have a sleep problem. Discuss your concerns with the child's primary care physician.
The common sleep disorders in children are sleep apnea, night terrors, and bed wetting.
Sleep apnea in children can greatly interfere with quality of sleep which then results in lack of energy and behavior problems during the day. Although snoring is a common symptom of this sleep disorder, many children do snore who do not have sleep apnea.
Mouth breathing while sleeping is another symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea. It was when we were sleeping in a hotel room with our children, that we first recognized that one of our kids may have sleep apnea. Our daughter snored most of the night, breathed through her mouth and was often tired during the day. As soon as we got home from our trip we made an appointment with a pediatric otolaryngologist (ENT) to have her tonsils and adenoids checked. The doctor told us that she did indeed have enlarged tonsils and adnenoid also called adenotonsillar hypertrophy.
She had surgery to remove both her tonsils and adenoids. Her snoring stopped, no more mouth breathing at night and her activity levels during the day were now like those of an energetic child. Sleep Apnea in Children
According to WebMD, "About 40% of 3-year-olds wet the bed. Experts don't fully understand why one child continues to wet the bed and another doesn't. By age 5 or 6, 85% of children can stay dry."
Some children after being dry at night will start bedwetting after experiencing some kind of stress whether it's at home, with friends or at school.
If this is a concern for you and your child discuss it with your child's pediatrician.
Night terrors or sleep terrors occur most commonly in kids between the ages of two to six years old. Unlike a nightmare, a child does not recall the episode in the morning nor can one awaken a child while they are experiencing a sleep terror.
The symptoms of night terrors include a child crying out, thrashing of arms or legs, and breathing fast. This condition is considered quite normal for kids and they will shortly outgrow it.
Night terrors are more of a sleep problem for parents than it is for the child. It can be disturbing to hear your child cry out, but the best thing to do is just to try and comfort them. Try calming them by stroking their legs or arms and speak soothing words. Do not try to wake them up. Although the parents sleep is disrupted, the child continues to sleep through the episode and normally wakes up quite rested.
Find out about the common causes of this sleep disorder, symptoms of night terrors and what can be done about them:
Night Terrors in Children
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