Pediatrics

Sleep Disorders in Children

Children suffering from untreated sleep disorders may be hyperactive, inattentive, and chronically sleepy. Changes in behavior often result in academic underachievement and social difficulties. Sleep disordered breathing affects up to 11% of school-aged children.
Recent research shows that untreated sleep disorders in children can lead to impaired working memory, reduced levels of wakefulness, and symptoms much like that of Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Our sleep experts are national leaders in diagnosing and treating sleep disorders in children.

Snoring and Sleep Disordered Breathing

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.

Signs and symptoms of SDB in children include:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Attention problems
  • Snoring or witnessed apneas

Apnea is a reoccurring episodic loss of breathing during sleep that can last many seconds and cause drops in oxygen. Apnea in children is often caused by enlarged tonsillar and adenoid tissue in the upper airway. It also may be caused by reduced, upper, airway muscle tone and obesity, which may require therapeutic interventions similar to those used in adults. Treatment resolves SDB and helps children get the sleep they need for growth and development.

Multiple studies demonstrate that sleep loss in children results in impaired learning and physical growth retardation. Growth hormone (GH), which is essential for body and brain development, is most active during the deep stages of sleep. Studies of children with SDB indicate that GH is often abnormally low and results in impaired development.

Successful therapy for SDB has been shown to reverse this process by allowing children to return to healthy sleep. Diagnosis of SDB in children often requires specialized sleep testing to accurately define therapy.

Restlessness and Kicking

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a very common condition affecting up to 10% 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.

RLS occurs in families and often begins in childhood. Children with RLS may demonstrate “growing pains”, kicking and excessive movement at night, as well as insomnia and daytime behavioral problems. In fact, studies of children with ADHD indicate that up to 40% also have RLS. In some cases, successful RLS therapy results in resolution of ADHD as well.

Nocturnal Behaviors or Parasomnias

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.

Insomnia

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.