Sleep disorders and problems are very common in children. Some children have a hard time falling asleep while others may not feel tired at bedtime. Other children seem to wake up frequently through the night, become wide awake, and then toss and turn to the point they go to wake their parents. There are many sleep problems that affect your child’s sleep; including bedtime fears, night terrors, insomnia, sleepwalking, sleep-disordered breathing, and bed-wetting.
As a parent, it can be frustrating having your own sleep disrupted on a regular basis or dealing with a cranky kid who is lacking sleep. Often but not always, the problems with your child’s sleep are linked to bedtime habits or daytime behavior. So with a little help and some adjustments, your child may be able to get better sleep on a regular basis.
Sleep Disorders May Prevent Your Child From Getting Enough Sleep
I don’t know about you, but when I don’t get enough sleep, I have a hard time controlling my mood. And just like adults, children have a hard time behaving appropriately when they are tired. Lack of sleep can have many symptoms in children including;
- Trouble concentrating at school or at home
- Seem over-emotional, irritable, or moody
- Struggle to follow conversations and seem to “space out” on a regular basis
- Falling asleep during car rides
- Have a hard time waking up or tend to go back to sleep shortly after you wake them
- Seem drowsy early in the day or fall asleep way before bedtime
If your child has a hard time falling asleep, settling down, or wakes up frequently during the night, they could be struggling with insomnia or other sleep disorders.
Insomnia & Causes
Insomnia is one of the most common sleep problems in children. It is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. This results in getting non-restorative or refreshing sleep. Children will often grow out of the issues related with insomnia. If the problem continues for several months and your child has difficulty sleeping more than three times a week, they could be suffering from insomnia or another sleep disorder. There are many reasons why your child may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Daytime habits could be affecting their sleep; such as watching television or eating sugary treats too close to bedtime. Other reasons your child may struggle to get quality sleep:
Caffeine: If your child drinks caffeinated beverages it can affect their ability to fall asleep. If they have caffeine, try to cut it off by lunchtime or limit it as much as possible.
Stress: Even though children are young and don’t experience stress like an adult, they can still feel stress. Stress often surfaces from issues at home or school. Whether it’s problems with bullying, friends, school work, contention at home, or changes in routine or surroundings, your child may be experiencing stress.
Medications: Some medications used to treat depression or ADHD can also cause problems with sleep.
Health Issues: Other medical issues such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, itchy skin (eczema), growing pains, or a stuffy nose from allergies can keep your child from falling asleep or cause them to wake during the night.
Fear of the dark tends to set in around the preschool age for many children. This is also the time nightmares can start. When your child is working through feelings or troubling circumstances during the day, these issues can manifest into disturbing dreams or nightmares at night. Speaking to your child about any changes they are experiencing may help you determine what’s causing the bad dreams. Starting at a new school, moving, the addition of a new baby, friend problems, or parents separating can cause uncertainty and bring about nightmares. If your child is experiencing nightmares, don’t focus too much on the scary dream, but instead, get them calmed down and ready for sleep.
Episodes of intense fear, flailing, and screaming while your child is asleep are called night or sleep terrors. Sleep terrors are not usually a cause for concern, but they can be disturbing for many parents to witness. Most often they are a byproduct of a new medication, stress, changes in the sleep environment, or lack of sleep. Unlike a nightmare, your child will remain asleep and will not remember the night terror the next day. Thankfully children will usually outgrow night terrors by their teenage years. A few symptoms of night terrors to watch out for include: screaming, thrashing around in bed, high heart rate, breathing heavily, sweating, sitting upright in bed, or moving around the house (since night terrors can happen while sleepwalking.)
Most incidents don’t last more than a few minutes and the best thing is to keep them safe during the night terror. You can gently guide your child back to bed or wait until they go back to sleep. Attempting to wake your child from an episode could cause more distress. So far there is no cure for night terrors, however, limiting the amount of stress or tension in their life, reducing caffeine consumption, and providing a relaxing bedtime routine has been shown to help.
In addition to getting out of bed and walking around the house while asleep, sleepwalkers can also sit up in bed, fumble with their clothes, rub their eyes or even talk. Your child may seem like they are awake, however, they are still asleep and won’t be aware of what they are doing or remember anything the next morning. Usually, there is no reason to contact a doctor unless the sleepwalking happens on a regular basis, involves dangerous behavior, or results in your child being very tired the next day.
Sleepwalking & Safety
There are a few things you can do to help reduce sleepwalking episodes including; sticking to a regular bedtime routine & schedule, help reduce stress levels, and not drinking right before bed since a full bladder can contribute to sleepwalking. As a parent, it’s important to keep your child safe if they sleepwalk; don’t wake them up and calmly help them go back to bed. Make your home as safe as possible for your child and keep their floor clear of toys or clutter to avoid falls. Don’t let your child sleep on a top bunk and if your child is old enough to drive, keep the car keys hidden. Keep in mind, most kids will outgrow sleepwalking by the time they hit their teenage years.
Sleep Disordered Breathing
One of the most common sleep-disordered breathing in children is obstructive sleep apnea or OSA. One of the main causes of sleep-disordered breathing in children is enlarged tonsils. Often, the removal of the tonsils will serve as treatment but sleep-disordered breathing can also involve the need for oral appliances. A dentist can often look into your child’s mouth and refer them to an ENT for a tonsillectomy or to a Sleep Specialist for a sleep assessment. If your child seems to snore, gasps for breath, or stops breathing while asleep, you’ll want to get help.
Sleep Disorders in Children: Get Help Today From Just Breathe DDS in Coeur d’Alene Idaho
If you feel like you have tried everything and nothing seems to be helping your child sleep better, you may need to rely on a sleep professional. Just Breathe DDS can help you find out the root cause of their inability to sleep through the night. We are familiar with many types of sleep disorders in children and how to treat them. For more information or to set up a free consultation, Call Just Breathe DDS, a sleep treatment practice in Coeur d’Alene Idaho today at (208) 500-3030.