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Sleep disorders in children are not uncommon - luckily, there are solutions

It can be challenging for parents to determine if a kid who has trouble sleeping is just developing normally or suffers from a sleep condition. Picture: Needpix

It can be challenging for parents to determine if a kid who has trouble sleeping is just developing normally or suffers from a sleep condition. Picture: Needpix

Published Jan 10, 2023


Both adults and children should get enough sleep. But often, folks don't get enough shut-eye.

It can be challenging for parents to determine if a kid who has trouble sleeping is just developing normally or suffers from a sleep condition.

Sleep disorders, also known as sleep-wake disorders, are issues with the quality, timing, and duration of sleep, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Living with a sleep problem causes distress and impairs one's capacity to do daily tasks.

Numerous youngsters suffer from sleep difficulties. According to a 2014 research by Kevin A. Carter et al. titled "Common Sleep Disorders in Children," up to 50% of children will suffer from a sleep disturbance. This study identified several prevalent categories of sleep problems, including:

  • obstructive sleep apnoea (1 to 5%)
  • sleepwalking (17%)
  • confusional arousals (17.3% in kids up to age 13 and 2.9 to 4.2% in adolescents older than age 15)
  • sleep terrors (1 to 6.5%)
  • nightmares (10 to 50% in 3- to 5-year-olds)
  • behavioural insomnia of childhood (10 to 30%)
  • delayed sleep phase disorder (7 to 16% in adolescents, specifically)
  • restless leg syndrome (2%)

Sleep issues in children may have an impact on the entire family. However, there are techniques to support enhancing kids' sleep. If it turns out that your child has a sleep condition, a medical expert might be able to help.

Signs of childhood sleep disorders

Children might often need a little while to calm down before bed, but if your child seems to be struggling a lot, it may be a sleep issue. Each of these scenarios can indicate a possible sleep disorder:

  • Your youngster may stay in bed for what seems like hours while requesting yet another book, song, drink, or toilet visit.
  • Even at night, your youngster sleeps for just around 90 minutes at a time.
  • At night, your youngster complains of itching legs.
  • Your kid sleeps a lot.

A lot of kids occasionally have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. These behaviours may indicate an underlying issue if they persist over multiple nights.

Children who don't get enough sleep during the daytime may also act more disruptively, appear moodier and irritable, and perform below par in school.

Result of children's lack of sleep

Everyone needs sleep, and kids' health might be impacted when they don't receive enough of it. Kids who don't get enough sleep over time may experience a variety of physical, emotional, and mental issues, such as daytime drowsiness, mood swings, difficulty managing emotions, a weakened immune system, poor memory, poor problem-solving abilities, and poor general health.

Young children's irritability is frequently a symptom of sleep deprivation. Teenagers who lack sleep may conceal their sad emotions and unpleasant ideas.

Sleep disruptions

A baby's body and mind are constantly changing as they progress through development, and this can make it difficult for them to fall or remain asleep.

It's possible that your infant has separation anxiety and wants a hug in the middle of the night.

They could be learning words, so when they wake up, their minds might be rushing to name everything in the crib. Even the impulse to move their arms and legs during the night may keep them awake.

Other sleep disturbances might result from an especially interesting or tiring day that keeps your infant too agitated to go sleep comfortably.

Caffeine-containing foods and beverages may make it difficult for your kid to fall asleep or remain asleep. Disruption can also occur when new surroundings or major regular changes occur.

Disturbances of sleep and their signs

If your child is getting close to their birthday and they can't stop talking about it, it's a strong sign that the excitement is too much for them to handle.

An active day without a nap may leave your toddler too stimulated to fall or remain asleep. Those are only short-term inconveniences that you can occasionally adapt to.

Even as they near their sixth month, your baby may wake up in the middle of the night and refuse to fall back asleep unless you rock or hold them. This indicates that your youngster probably hasn't mastered night time self-soothing.

Children who learn to relax themselves without needing outside help develop self-soothing. Asking your child to "cry it out" is not the same as teaching them how to comfort themselves.

Sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea is alarming because your child often stops breathing during sleep for intervals of 10 seconds or more. Most of the time, your youngster won't be aware of this.

As well as snoring loudly, sleeping with their mouth open, and being very tired throughout the day, your kid may exhibit other symptoms. See a medical expert as soon as you can if you see this occurring to your child.

Learning and behavioural difficulties, as well as cardiac complications, can result from sleep apnoea. If you spot the symptoms in your child, make sure to get aid.

Restless leg syndrome

The Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation states that although research has shown that RLS can often begin in childhood, it was previously believed to be an adult issue.

Your youngster might regularly switch positions in bed in an effort to find comfort from "the wiggles" or the sensation of an insect crawling on them. Some kids with RLS don't even realise they're uncomfortable, yet it causes them to have trouble sleeping.

There are several RLS therapies, however many of them haven't been thoroughly researched in youngsters. These include both prescription drugs and vitamin supplements for adults. Discuss what's best for you with your doctor.

Night terrors

The entire family may be terrified by night terrors, which are more than simply nightmares.

Night terrors, which are more common in children than in adults, cause a person to wake up out of a deep sleep looking frightened or disturbed, sometimes sobbing, yelling, and occasionally sleepwalking.

Most of the time, they aren't actually, night terrors often occur approximately 90 minutes after a kid goes to sleep, during non-REM sleep. Night terrors cannot be treated, but by following a sleep routine and minimising overnight disruptions, you can lessen the risk that they will occur.

All humans must get enough rest to operate well, but children especially need to get enough decent sleep to develop normally.

You'll be doing your child a lifetime of good if you can identify a sleep disturbance early and make modifications, or seek guidance, counselling, or treatment,wake, and most kids don't even recall the incident.