Night terrors typically occur in children ages 3-12, with a peak onset at age 3 1/2. Sleep is divided into two categories: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (non-REM). Non-REM sleep is further divided into four stages, progressing from stages 1-4. Night terrors occur during the transition from stage 3 non-REM sleep to stage 4 non-REM sleep, beginning approximately 90 minutes after the child falls asleep.
Sleep in children can be complicated by behaviors such as sleep terrors, sleep walking, rhythmic movements and nightmares. These common conditions, referred to as parasomnias, may signify an underlying sleep disorder. Sleep behaviors often run in families and can range from mild arousals to violent outbursts that disturb an entire family’s sleep. Diagnostic testing is often indicated and treatment can range from safety measures to medical interventions.
Children can experience difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, just like adults. The causes are often multi-factorial and include conditioned behaviors, other medical conditions, primary sleep disorders, and psychological stress. Diagnostic testing can be very useful and therapies are available to treat the causes of childhood insomnia.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a very common condition affecting up to 10 percent of people. It is typified by an uncomfortable sensation in the legs or an urge to move the legs, that gets worse in the evening and at rest, and can feel better with movement or massage.
Children who regularly snore or have breathing interruptions during sleep often exhibit behavioral problems, such as sleepiness and hyperactivity. Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) in children can range from snoring to severe sleep apnea.