What Are Pediatric Sleep Disorders?
Pediatric sleep disorders are chronic sleep disruptions that occur in patients aged 17 and under. The sleep disorders suffered by infants, children, and teens are generally very similar to those that can be acquired by adults. The main difference is the age when symptoms are first noticed.
Who Has Pediatric Sleep Disorders?
Pediatric sleep disorders are quite common, and even very young infants can develop them. There are no comprehensive statistics on the prevalence of pediatric sleep disorders in the general population, but some inferences can be made.
Experts estimate that about 30% of toddlers and up to 5% of school-aged children suffer from a complex of factors called behavioral insomnia of childhood. This includes challenges such as problems falling asleep at bedtime, maintaining a consistent sleep regimen, and night waking.
Pediatric sleep disorders should be treated as soon as possible. Children of any age who suffer from long-term untreated sleep disturbances are much more likely to retain sleep disorders or develop new ones as they age.
How Do Pediatric Sleep Disorders Develop?
Pediatric sleep disorders can occur for a variety of reasons. Some of them start as the result of anxiety or other mental health concerns. Others, such as sleep apnea, are structural and may require surgery or other treatment to mitigate.
Although a daily routine including consistent sleep and wake times will help to prevent some sleep disorders, not all such disorders result from sleep habits. In some cases, there is an underlying issue affecting the biological circadian rhythm that guides the sleep-wake cycle.
Symptoms of Pediatric Sleep Disorders
The spectrum of sleep disorders experienced by children and teens includes:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when normal breathing is interrupted during sleep. This may be caused by a physical obstruction within the airway or by neurological processes. Often, soft tissue within the airway blocks the flow of oxygen when the body relaxes during sleep.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome is a condition that typically becomes noticeable at night, characterized by a very powerful urge to move the legs. It usually takes place while sitting or lying down. Many patients, including youths, can obtain temporary relief by getting up and moving around.
Narcolepsy is a disorder with symptoms occurring only in the daytime. Sufferers experience sudden, profound bouts of drowsiness. Should they fall asleep, it is often difficult to wake them.
Young people may report sleep onset insomnia, which makes it difficult to fall asleep, or sleep maintenance insomnia, which makes it hard to stay asleep. These can contribute to or derive from circadian rhythm disorders, in which a person feels tired or wakeful at the wrong times.
Pediatric Sleep Disorder Treatment Options
The right pediatric sleep disorder treatment depends on the specific problem and underlying cause. For example, sleep apnea can often be managed with a simple dental appliance or fully resolved with surgery. A sleep study that helps physicians evaluate a patient’s sleep patterns and disturbances is typically the best way to begin designing an effective course of treatment.Here at Sleep & Neuroscience Associates, our goal is to help patients of all ages achieve the most restful, healthiest sleep possible. We are among the few teams in Connecticut with the specialized training to diagnose and treat pediatric sleep disorders. To find out more or set an appointment, contact us today.