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We often talk about disorders in adults and the difficulty of understanding and accepting it, but we forget that sleep disorders can affect children too. Sometimes it can be even more difficult because children can’t quite describe what they feel so we can often misinterpret what is wrong.
During their childhood, kids can frequently experience parasomnias like sleepwalking, talking during sleep, etc and it might be connected to the anxiety of separation. Dyssomnia, on the other hand, causes difficulty in falling and staying asleep. It includes sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea in Children
As the rates for obese children go up, sleep apnea is becoming a common sight, and it can cause significant damage for a brain that is still developing because lack of oxygen can lead to possible problems in cognitive abilities. Here are the most common symptoms:
During the night:
- Regular snoring
- Heavy sweating during night time
- Restless sleep
- Stops or pauses in breathing as well as experiencing snorts that can cause disruptions during sleep
During the day:
- Experiencing difficulty to wake up
- Social and behavioral problems
- Cranky and aggressive
- Headaches in the morning and throughout the day
- Breathing through the mouth on a regular basis
- Nasal voice
If you notice one or more stated symptoms you should go to your child’s pediatrician for a checkup. During the examination make sure you explain your child’s behavior in detail. The doctor might give you a reference for a specialist or recommend a sleep study. Polysomnogram or sleep study is a helpful diagnosing tool for sleep disorders. It’s risk-free and painless, but your kid will have to spend one night in the sleep center or hospital.
During the study specialists usually check:
- Sleep positions and movement during sleep
- Patterns of breathing
- Waves of the brain
- Heart rate
- The levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide
Sleep Apnea Treatment
The treatment depends on the cause and effect of it on sleep. If it has a mild impact on sleep, doctors might still want to check your child’s sleep until they determine the appropriate treatment. If the cause to sleep apnea is big tonsils, the physician might recommend ENT doctor. The ENT specialist often suggests two types of surgeries – removing adenoids or tonsils. Both treatments have been proven successful to resolve the struggle with sleep apnea.
In case the cause was due to something else CPAP therapy is recommended. During continuous positive airway pressure therapy, your child will wear a mask over the nose or mouth while sleeping. The mask is connected to a machine that opens the airways by pumping the air.
Many times weight that is highly above average can cause sleep apnea to worsen. When that is noticed it is essential to consult the pediatrician for advice on exercise, change of diet and other weight loss measures that are safe for your child.
Obesity and Short Sleep in Children
Studies have found that the quantity of fat in kids bodies is in correlation with sleep just like it is in the case of adults. Lack of sleep results in higher levels of fat. If only one hour was added every night, it could reduce up to 61 percent risk of a child becoming obese at the age of seven.
Although many people believe that kids should eat whatever they want cause they grow and that will help them lose the additional weight, the truth is that childhood is the perfect time to create a healthy eating habit. If you become obese as a child, the chances are that pattern of thinking and eating will continue later on during your adulthood.
It is a behavioral disorder when a child continuously makes up excuses or stall bedtime by asking random questions and as a last resort they might scream and act out to delay going to sleep. How does insomnia fit into all this? Insomnia is defined as having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. If this patter frequently occurs, it can lead to behavioral disorders. For children to obtain healthy sleep hygiene, a regular bedtime routine is necessary as well as a relaxing environment. If the parents don’t set boundaries, the bedroom can become a place where you set bed wars.
Since kids don’t recognize how much sleep they need or if they had enough, if you leave them unsupervised, they will find a way to keep themselves awake as the kids will feel that they will miss something because everyone else is awake. Even though they will eventually fall asleep when sleepy, they will create an irregular sleeping pattern that can lead to circadian rhythm disruption.
When appropriate bedtime is set, and you help your child to stick to it even during the weekends, it will satisfy the sleep needs of a child in a healthy manner. The boundaries help the child know what to expect from you and what not to expect. Kids might take advantage if there is inconsistency, which can include demands for food, attention, playtime, etc.
If you indulge those requests, the bedtime will extend, and your child won’t get the proper rest it needs.
Three simple guidelines can help you in dealing with limit-setting insomnia
- Thirty to twenty minutes before bedtime, you should engage your child in relaxing activities such as taking a bath and reading bedtime stories. Bear in mind that you should set a limit for that too so that it doesn’t become a delaying factor that kid will try to use against going to bed.
- Pay attention to the sleep needs of your child when you create a bedtime routine. If you put your children to sleep too early, they might wake up early in the morning and disturb the rest of the family.
- Do not indulge your child requests after or around the bedtime.
Limit-setting insomnia is a form of insomnia because it can cause a shorter sleep as well as consecutive sleepiness during day time. Therefore, experts consider this to be behavioral insomnia.
Stress and headaches can cause struggles falling asleep. The body reacts to stress in different ways, and our brain can’t see the difference between what is real and what isn’t. For kids, many things might trigger the fight-or-flight response. Perhaps it can be nightmares, fear of the monsters or dark, and over-worrying.
In these scenarios here are some things that can help your child feel at ease before falling asleep
- Firstly, make sure there are no toys that look scary, and if there are, put them away.
- Don’t talk about scary monsters during bedtime. Instead, you should do relaxing activities such as reading a bedtime story to redirect their thoughts and create positive ones.
- Turn off screens that can disrupt the production of melatonin.
- If the child is afraid of the dark try using a nightlight.
- Pillow talk is essential so don’t skip it. This is the time where your child wants to snuggle up with you and maybe share their troubles. You should listen more and talk less.
Bedtime and Cognitive Abilities
Many researchers have found that children who are exposed to irregular bedtime have lower levels of cognitive development. Routine is a good way for a child’s mind to reduce worry and stress, and it might make getting ready for school easier.
Medicine and Children
It is not advised to use medications that are not FDA approved for kids as they can have side effects on a child’s development. Labels by FDA influence the use of medicine, but doctors can prescribe a medication that is certain to help with a specific problem, based on previous experience and studies.
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A fashion designer by profession, writer by choice and bookworm – always. As a person struggling with anxiety for years and someone who loves to sleep, I can relate to the struggles of getting a good night’s rest. When I’m not doing sleep research, I enjoy reading books, being involved in creative activities and discovering the best use of my Moka pot.