Sleep disorders in children

Wednesday 22,
FEBRUARY
2017
Sleep disorders in children

Singing a babysitter, reading a story, taking a hot bath...parents use endless tricks to get their children to sleep, but many times this task can be very complicated. Sleep disorders in children are one of the reasons for pediatric consultation increasingly frequent. If a child does not sleep well it affects their development and behavior, which can be a problem for the whole family.

According to the Sleep Institute, between 25% and 30% of visits to the pediatrician are related to a sleep disorder. Sleeping well is essential for the child's development, as it is proven that growth hormone is secreted more intensely during sleep. Therefore when they are very young it is necessary to establish some guidelines to regulate or, rather, not alter their biological clock and not generate problems in the future.

It is very important to distinguish a problem or sleep alteration from a disorder. The problem or alteration can be motivated by bad habits that, if we correct them, usually there is a solution by normalizing the dream. In contrast, sleep disorder, in spite of being able to be motivated also by these, can be accompanied by some hormonal problem, the nervous system or have another diverse origin.

sleep disorders in children

Below we tell you what are the sleep disorders in children included in the International Classification of Sleep Disorders.

  • Insomnia. When the child has difficulty to fall asleep at bedtime. According to several studies, about 30% of children between 6 months old and 5 years old suffer from insomnia. In 5% of cases it is caused by medical reasons and in 25% the origin is behavioral.
  • Movement disorders related to sleep. Include periodic limb movements, rhythmic movements, and restless leg syndrome.
  • Circadian rhythm disorders. In this type of disorder, the quantity and quality of sleep are normal, but they occur at an incorrect time according to the usual hours (the usual time to begin the sleep starts usually between 23:30h and 5:15h). That is, the child tends to fall asleep and wake up later.
  • Respiratory disorders related to sleep, including the following:
    • The usual snoring
    • Upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS)
    • Obstructive sleep apnea-hypopnea syndrome
    • Obstructive hypopneas
    • Nocturnal asthma
    • Other chronic respiratory disorders
  • Parasomnias. They are conduct disorders during sleep. It is associated with brief or partial episodes of awakening, but does not imply a significant interruption of sleep or an alteration in the level of daytime wakefulness. Usually it occurs in the transitions between sleep and wakefulness, or vice versa, or in certain phases of sleep. The most frequent are:
    • Somnambulism
    • Night terrors
    • Nightmares
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness or hypersomnia. It is a disorder of the sleep mechanism. It is characterized by excessive, constant and involuntary drowsiness. A child with this disorder has great difficulty to stay awake.

If a child does not sleep as necessary it will affect their development and will cause greater irritability. This also can trigger family stress, school disturbances and developmental problems.

Prevention is the most important part to avoid future problems. Knowing and treating sleep disorders in children will help prevent possible sleep disorders in adults.

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