Common Childhood Sleep Disorders
Sleep Apnea – Pediatric sleep apnea is a breathing problem that occurs when a child's upper airway narrows during sleep. Pediatric sleep apnea typically differs from adult sleep apnea in several ways. Children often have only short episodes of disrupted breathing that lead to frequent breaks in sleep. Snoring, mouth breathing, restless sleep, bed-wetting, feeling tired upon awakening, daytime inattentiveness, mood swings and hyperactivity are common symptoms of pediatric sleep apnea. Enlarged adenoids or tonsils often cause pediatric sleep apnea. However, other conditions, such as muscle weakness, obesity and head and facial abnormalities, can also cause sleep apnea in children.
Insomnia – Children with insomnia either have trouble going to sleep, staying asleep, or are simply not well rested after what should be a normal amount of time sleeping. In addition to being sleepy during the day, symptoms of childhood insomnia can include irritability, mood swings, hyperactivity, depressed mood, aggressiveness, a decreased attention span and memory problems.
Parasomnias are sleep disorders characterized by abnormal polysomnography. They are episodic in nature and are a reflection of central nervous system (CNS) immaturity. Thus, they are more common in children than in adults and are generally outgrown with time. There is often a family history positive for these parasomnias.
Some of the most frequently-seen parasomnias are:
Sleepwalking - has a prevalence of 1-17% in childhood, with the most frequent occurrences around the age of eleven-twelve.
Sleeptalking - Formally known as somniloquy, is a sleep disorder defined as talking during sleep without being aware of it. Sleep talking can involve complicated dialogues or monologues, complete gibberish or mumbling. Sleeptalking is common in children.
REM Behavior Disorder (RBD) – Motor activity and/or talking during REM sleep and it usually involves acting out of dreams.
Nightmare Disorder – Usually occurs during latter half of night, during REM sleep and the child is easily aroused from episode, readily recalls event.
Sleep Terror Disorder – Occurs during first third of night, during deep sleep and child is usually confused, difficult to console, and unable to recall part of all the events.
Bruxism - A common sleep disorder where the child grinds their teeth during sleep. This can cause sleep disruption for the child, wear and fracture of teeth, and jaw pain.
Narcolepsy – A chronic neurological condition caused by the brain's inability to regulate the sleep-wake cycle normally. Narcoleptics have uncontrollable urges to sleep at inappropriate times during the day. They may also experience muscle weakness after laughing or crying outbursts.
Periodic Leg Movements Syndrome (PLMS) – The patient experiences sudden jerking or bending of the arms and legs during sleep. These symptoms can range from small shudders of the ankles and toes to leg kicks and flailing of arms and legs. These periodic movements often wake the sufferer, significantly disturbing the quality of the child's sleep.