What are childhood sleep disorders?
Childhood sleep disorders are conditions that make it difficult for children to get sufficient rest or cause excessive sleepiness. Childhood sleep disorders affect school performance by causing decreased attention, learning, memory and focus. Additionally, sleep disorders affect a child’s behavior, causing irritability and hyperactivity.
Sleep problems can be categorized as either behavioral or medical. Behavioral sleep conditions are frequently due to poor sleep hygiene caused by a lack of routine, poor sleep environment and insufficient sleep.
Medical sleep conditions include:
What causes the medical sleep disorders?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is difficulty moving air during sleep. OSA can be caused by an obstruction of the airway (by enlarged tonsils and adenoids) and obesity. Conditions related to decreased muscle tone or craniofacial abnormalities seen in Down syndrome or in children with nasal obstruction can also cause the condition. OSA is diagnosed after an overnight sleep study.
Central apnea occurs when the part of the brain that controls breathing doesn't properly maintain the breathing process. It is fairly common in very premature infants because the respiratory center in the brain is immature.
Hypoventilation is inadequate breathing or ventilation at night. It can lead to abnormal blood gasses (the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the bloodstream). Hypoventilation in pediatrics is typically associated with complex medical disorders.
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder characterized by excessive sleepiness, dream-like activity while awake and a sudden loss of muscle tone. This is frightening for young children.
Parasomnias include sleepwalking, night terrors and confusional arousals.
Rhythmic movement disorder involves some type of rocking, rolling or head banging. For most children it is a soothing way to fall asleep and of no concern.
Circadian rhythm disorders describe a disruption in a person’s internal body clock causing children and teenagers to sleep at a time that is not normal for the rest of the family. Teenagers commonly have delayed sleep phase and are late to bed and late to rise.
Periodic limb movement disorder causes frequent twitching or movements of the legs or feet during sleep. This can lead to daytime sleepiness because of the interruption in sleep.
What causes the behavioral sleep conditions?
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or remain asleep. The causes can be chronic or acute and often involve poor sleep habits and routines. Sometimes insomnia is a medical problem caused by genes, different brain “wiring,” and involves a combination of medical and behavioral therapy.