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Pediatric sleep expert Sally Ibrahim, MD, says these sleep disorders can affect your children’s health — and yours, since you care for them. She offers facts on some common childhood sleep disorders and the steps you can take to overcome them.
Insomnia affects children in much the same way it affects adults — except that it’s usually the parent who notices and reports it. Like adults, children may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
Acute cases can be brought on by stress or illness, but if insomnia lasts longer than a few months, it may be chronic. For milder cases, help your children practice good sleep hygiene. Follow these tips:
For difficult cases, talk with your pediatrician. For some children, a consult with a sleep doctor may help. Sometimes a behavioral sleep psychologist is available to help guide insomnia with cognitive behavioral therapy.
As if puberty didn’t bring enough worries, it also may throw off a teenager’s sleep-wake cycle. When they have delayed sleep phase syndrome (a circadian rhythm disorder), their biological clock makes them have a tendency to become typical “night owls” — late to bed and late to rise.
This is often mistaken as insomnia at first, but can lead to insomnia if it becomes chronic — or habitual. Here’s what you can do:
Snoring, disturbed sleep, pauses in breathing while asleep — these symptoms of sleep apnea strike children too. Listen for nasal congestion and heavy breathing when your child sleeps.
On top of the typical adult consequences of sleep apnea, such as mood changes, daytime fatigue and high blood pressure, Dr. Ibrahim says children with sleep apnea may wet the bed. And they may have similar daytime issues to children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as trouble concentrating, poor grades and behavioral issues.
If you suspect sleep apnea, your pediatrician can refer you for a sleep study. The gold standard for diagnosing sleep apnea and knowing how severe it is with a sleep study.
If your child has sleep apnea, the first line therapy is removing the tonsils and adenoids, but there may be other considerations for your child. CPAP, a machine that helps with nighttime breathing, is typically reserved for those who already had their tonsils and adenoids removed or those who don’t have any other surgical options.
The important thing, Dr. Ibrahim says, is to address sleep issues as early as you can for your child. This will help to ensure that they stay healthy and develop positive sleep habits for life.