Pediatric Sleep Disorders
More than 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. It can affect anyone
at any age, including children. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is marked
by obstruction of the upper airway during sleep. This causes pauses or
breaks in a person's breathing, preventing air from entering the lungs
and forcing the person to wake briefly to start breathing again before
falling back to sleep. The person with OSA is usually unaware of this.
The interruption to breathing can happen hundreds of times a night, resulting
in markedly fragmented sleep. As a result, adults with OSA often feel
excessively sleepy during the day. However, children have symptoms similar
to children with ADHD such as hyperactivity and unable to concentrate.
Other signs are: sleeping in an abnormal position such as with head propped up, snore
loudly and often, gasping or choking sounds, sweat heavily during sleep,
behavioral problems, learning problems, restless sleep, difficult to awaken,
headaches, irritable or aggressive, fall asleep in school, diagnosed with
ADHD or bedwetting at an untypical age.*
*American Academy of Sleep Medicine, (n.d.), My Child Snores, Westchester, IL.
Treatment: Removing the tonsils and adenoids can treat 75-100% of OSA in children.
If obesity is an issue, weight loss is of extreme importance to aid in
the treatment of the sleep apnea. If surgery is not an option, for whatever
reason, or if surgery does not resolve the OSA, then the child may wear
PAP therapy. The child sleeps with a small, lightweight mask (various
options exist) over the nose that is attached to a quiet air machine.
This machine delivers the prescribed pressure that "splints"
the airway open.
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)
A child can have rhythmic limb movements throughout the night during sleep
that may disrupt the quality of the child's sleep. This may result
in daytime sleepiness and/or hyperactivity with the child. They may also
complain of limb pain. This may or may not be treated with prescribed
medications. Please consult your sleep specialist.
Restless Legs Syndrome
The child describes creepy, crawly sensations in their legs and can't
keep their legs still while awake. This can make it difficult for a child
to fall asleep at night. Sometimes this can be confused with growing pains.
This may or may not be treated with prescribed medications. Please consult
your sleep specialist.
Teeth grinding at night, (which is often caused by stress) could possibly disrupt sleep. In severe cases the child's parents
may need to consult a dentist and/or family doctor for a special mouth
guard to prevent dental injury. The best treatment is to lessen stress.*
*American Academy of Sleep Medicine, (n.d.), Sleepwalking and Other Childhood
Parainsomnias, Westchester, IL.
Usually occur in childhood, when a child suddenly has a blood-curdling
scream out of non-REM sleep. These events are not usually remembered by
the child experiencing the event. Each event may last up to 5 minutes.
Usually this is more upsetting for the parent watching the event. These
usually occur in the early half of the night. These are usually harmless
to the child. The number events may increase with changes in the child's
life or while under physical stress such as an illness.
Scary dreams that may awaken the child out of the dream state. Occur during
the dream state of sleep (REM) and usually occur during the second half
of the night. These can usually be remembered in extreme detail by the child.
The child may wonder around the house quietly without bumping into things.
The child may speak. Injury is unusual while sleepwalking. An episode
may last 5-15 minutes. Treatment is not usually necessary. Tips to protect
the child are lock all exterior doors and windows at night, place a bell
on the child's door to alert the parents that they are up, pad corners
or areas that could harm the child.