Common Child Sleep Disorders
Sleep is important to a child’s health. Learning how to sleep soundly is an essential part of development. It is typical – for various reasons – for children to wake up during the night. However, returning to sleep may be difficult at times for children. Sleep deprivation in children can lead to behavioral problems and general moodiness, which can put significant stress on the family. Fortunately, many of the common sleep problems children have are easily remedied after they are identified.
How Much Sleep Do Children Need?
- 1 – 4 weeks old. Newborns need adequate sleep, approximately 16 – 17 hours a day with periods of wakefulness lasting 1 – 3 hours. Sleep training is required to adjust most newborn sleep schedules.
- 1 – 4 months old. Infants of this age will still need 16 – 17 hours of sleep, with them sleeping longer at night. They will wake for periods of feeding and changes.
- 4 months – 1 year. Babies of this age will require between14 – 15 hours of sleep every day. While many of them are able to sleep through the night, up to 3 naps during the day and evening are recommended.
- 1 – 3 years. Toddlers of this age need about 12 – 14 hours of sleep. They will more than likely lose their morning and early evening nap, and decrease to only one nap a day.
- 3 – 6 years. Children of this age need approximately 11 – 12 hours of sleep.
- 7 – 12 years. Children of this age need about 10 – 12 hours sleep.
- 13 – 18 years. Teens of this age need about 8 – 10 hours of sleep, but rarely get the full amount they need. The demands of schoolwork and extracurricular activities, among other factors, cut into their nightly sleep.
Common Sleep Disorders & Symptoms
Insomnia in children can be caused by a variety of factors including stress, pain, or mental disorders. Stress can result from a variety of sources such as difficulty with school, social issues, family issues or changes to their regular routine like moving or changing schools. Insomnia can be short-term, but it can become long-term if the underlying cause is not addressed or healthy sleep hygiene is not employed.
Nightmares are frightening dreams that occur during REM sleep and can wake a child up with feelings of terror, fear, or a sense of threat. Nightmares are common in children around the age of 3 and can occur more frequently between the ages of 6 – 10. Frequent disruptive nightmares can lead to EDS, anxiety, and behavioral problems if left untreated.
Night Terrors are independent of nightmares in that the child never fully awakens from sleep. Because it does not wake the child, it’s not as frightening to them as nightmares. During a night terror episode, the child will sit up in bed and scream or cry. Other symptoms such as sweating, rapid breathing, increased heart rate, and muscle tension may be present. Night terror episodes often last less than 5 minutes.
Causes of night terrors may be the result of not getting enough sleep, an irregular sleep schedule, stress, or sleeping in a new environment. Increasing sleep time will help reduce the likelihood of night terrors.
Sleep Walking is very common in children. It occurs when a child leaves the bed in the middle of the night while still asleep. Their eyes may be open and they may mumble as they walk about, and these occurrences can last between 5 – 15 minutes. Most children who sleepwalk will outgrow it by the time they are teenagers.
Sleep walking can be dangerous, especially if the child is walking down the stairs during an episode or leaving the house. If your child suffers from sleep walking, try to make the child’s environment as safe as possible to avoid injuries.
Restless Legs Syndrome is a movement disorder that includes uncomfortable and unpleasant feelings in the legs. These feelings can mimic tingling or itchiness. These feelings make it difficult to fall asleep, but can be treated with changes in bedtime routines, increased iron, and certain medications.
Sleep Apnea is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep caused by blocked airway passages, resulting in repeated arousals from sleep. When snoring is loud and the child has difficulty breathing, sleep apnea may be present. Sleep apnea is commonly associated with daytime sleepiness, academic problems, and hyperactivity. Treatment options are available.
If you find you are having difficulty resolving your child’s sleeping disorder (or disorders), then you should seek the help of a qualified sleep specialist such as New York’s Dr. Mayank Shukla. Contact us today to get your child on the path to better sleep.