Types of sleep disorders in children

October 30, 2020 4 mins read
Types of sleep disorders in children

What are the different types of sleep disorders in children? What symptoms of sleep disorders do you need to look out for as a parent?

You want the best for your child and for them to have the best childhood possible. For them to feel their best, they need quality sleep. And if they are struggling with a sleep disorder, it needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

Here is an overview of the types of sleep disorders that are common in children and the symptoms you need to look out for:

What is a sleep disorder?

A sleep disorder is a condition that interferes with a person’s ability to get quality sleep regularly. This could be anything from sleep insomnia to night terrors.

Sleep disorders can present themselves in both children and adults. Treatment for the symptoms of sleep disorders will depend on the particular disorder, your child’s age and their lifestyle.

6 types of sleep disorders in children

So, what types of sleep disorders are the most common in children? Here are six you need to be aware of as a parent:

1. Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition where a person stops breathing for brief periods of time while sleeping. In babies and children, it is referred to as pediatric sleep apnea.

There are two types of sleep apnea, namely obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by an obstruction in the nose or back of the throat, and one of the first signs to look out for is snoring.

2. Restless leg syndrome

Restless leg syndrome gives children who have the disorder an uncomfortable feeling in their legs while they are trying to fall asleep. Some of these feelings include itchiness, a crawling sensation, throbbing, burning and an overwhelming desire to move.

It is different from growing pains and usually occurs at the beginning of the night.

The exact cause of restless leg syndrome is unknown. But it is believed that an iron deficiency could be a possible cause. Some genes have been associated with restless leg syndrome.

3. Night terrors

Night terrors are also referred to as sleep terrors, a type of parasomnia. During a night terror, your child will show signs of being panicked and terrified while asleep. They can start kicking, screaming, flailing and crying in their sleep.

Children usually do not remember night terror episodes.

4. Parasomnias

A parasomnia is an unusual behaviour that occurs during sleep. This includes sleepwalking, sleep talking, night terrors, nightmares, REM sleep behaviour disorder and a nocturnal sleep-related eating disorder.

5. Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS)

DSPS is a circadian rhythm disorder that delays your child’s sleep by two or more hours beyond their bedtime. This disrupts their internal body clock and makes it difficult to wake up at the right time the next day.

6. Behavioural insomnia

Behavioural insomnia is caused by poor sleep behaviours. If your child has behavioural insomnia, they have the ability to fall asleep, but their lifestyle and pre-bed habits make it hard to do so. Poor habits that can affect sleep include not exercising, eating sugar late at night and looking at a digital screen until it is time to go to sleep.

Symptoms of sleep disorders in children

How do you know if your child has a sleep disorder? Here are a few symptoms that can indicate that your child has an underlying condition:

  • Your child is snoring while sleeping.
  • You’ve noticed breathing pauses while they are asleep.
  • They are struggling to fall asleep.
  • Your child is experiencing sleep anxiety at night.
  • They have difficulty staying asleep at night.
  • You’ve noticed problems with their mental and physical performance during the day.
  • They are displaying unusual sleep behaviours like sleep talking, sleepwalking, nightmares, screaming, kicking and flailing.
  • Your child claims their legs are itchy or burning at night.
  • Your child keeps calling you back to bed to do things like take them to the bathroom, read to them, play with them or sing with them.

What causes sleep disorders in children?

Sleep disorders can be caused by factors, such as stress and anxiety, genetics, poor nutrition, bad lifestyle and sleep habits and breathing obstructions. Your doctor will be able to make an official diagnosis and recommend the best treatment.

If your child is showing symptoms of having a sleep disorder, seek help from your doctor and adjust their pre-bed routine and lifestyle to improve their sleep, and improve their waking life.