About 69 percent of children 10 and under experience some type of sleep
problem, according to the National Sleep Foundation's (NSF) 2004 Sleep
in America poll. Some of the most common are outlined below:
Insomnia is a sleep problem that occurs when a child
complains of difficulty falling asleep, remaining asleep, and/or early
morning awakenings. Insomnia can be short-term due to stress, pain, or
a medical or psychiatric condition. It can become long-term if the underlying
cause is not addressed or healthy sleep practices are not employed. Treating
underlying conditions, developing good sleep practices and maintaining
a consistent sleep schedule can improve the ability to fall asleep and
Nightmares are frightening dreams that occur during
REM sleep and awaken a child. They usually occur in the later part
of the night. Most children have at least one nightmare during
childhood; three percent of preschool and school aged children experience
frequent nightmares, according to NSF's 2004 Sleep in America poll.
They can be upsetting and a child will need reassurance when they occur. Nightmares
can result from a scary event, stress, a difficult time or change in
a child's routine. Use of a nightlight or security object
is often helpful.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a movement disorder
that includes uncomfortable and unpleasant feelings (e.g. crawly tingly
or itchy) in the legs causing an overwhelming urge to move. These
feelings make it difficult to fall asleep. RLS can be treated with
changes in bedtime routines, increased iron, and possibly medications.
Sleeptalking occurs when the child talks, laughs or
cries out in his/her sleep. As with sleep terrors, the child is unaware
and has no memory of the incident the next day. There is usually
no need to treat sleeptalking.
Sleepwalking is experienced by as many as 40 percent
of children, usually between ages three and seven. Sleepwalking
usually occur an hour or two after sleep onset and may last five to 20
minutes. As sleep deprivation often contributes to sleepwalking,
moving bedtime earlier can be helpful.
Sleep terrors occur early in the night. A child
may scream out and be distressed, although s/he is not awake or aware
during a sleep terror. Sleep terrors may be caused by not getting enough
sleep, an irregular sleep schedule, stress, or sleeping in a new environment.
Increasing sleep time will help reduce the likelihood of a sleep terror.
Snoring occurs when there is a partial blockage in
the airway that causes a noise due to the vibration of the back of the
throat. About l0-12 percent of normal children habitually snore. Snoring
can be caused by nasal congestion or enlarged adenoids or tonsils that
block the airway. Some children who snore may have sleep
Sleep apnea -- when snoring is loud and the child is
having difficulty breathing, it may be a sign of a more serious disorder,
obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is characterized by pauses
in breathing during sleep caused by blocked airway passages, resulting
in repeated arousals from sleep. Sleep apnea has been associated
with daytime sleepiness, academic problems, and hyperactivity. Treatment
for sleep apnea is available.
Talk to your child's doctor if any of the following
symptoms are observed:
- A newborn or infant is extremely and consistently fussy.
- A child is having problems breathing or breathing is noisy.
- A child snores, especially if snoring is loud.
- Unusual nighttime awakenings.
- Difficulty falling asleep and maintaining sleep, especially if you
see daytime sleepiness and/or behavioral problems.