Sleep Disorder Types
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), two out of every three children ages 10 and under have experienced some type of sleep disorder. When sleep disorders are left untreated, they can negatively impact a child’s overall social and behavioral development at home and at school. Furthermore, children can develop depression and anxiety disorders when they do not get the proper amount of sleep.
In order to properly treat your child, it’s important to understand what type of sleep disorder they may have, the symptoms and best ways to treat it. If you're not sure, you can use the free Heads Up Checkup symptom checker.
This sleep disorder is classified as interrupted breathing during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is defined as loud snoring and blocked airflow in the windpipe. When the windpipe closes, it causes your child to awake, resume breathing and go back to sleep. Additional symptoms include: restlessness, pauses in breathing while sleeping and daytime sleepiness. Treatment options include CPAP mask that helps increase breathing, dental appliances or in some cases, surgery to remove tonsils.
Enuresis (Bed Wetting)
Children suffering from sleep apnea are at the greatest risk for bedwetting. Why? Because of a lack of sleep, their reactions have decreased and it prevents them from waking up fully to go to the bathroom. The main symptom of enuresis is urinating in the bed or having a full bladder. Treatment options include restricting liquid intake in the evening and/or prescribe medication from your pediatrician.
Common among preschoolers (3-6 years old), nightmares and night terrors happen when children dream of a scary situation involving monsters, ghosts, and other scary imagery. Symptoms of night terrors include sweating, awaking scared, heavy breathing, confusion, and fatigue. Treatment options include creating a security object, such as a stuffed animal or blanket to lessen fear, turning on a nightlight and creating a mellow bedtime routine.
Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS)
DSPS is defined as the inability to fall asleep for at least two hours past bedtime. DSPS is more common among teens. Symptoms also include daytime fatigue and difficulty getting up in the morning. Treatment options include bright-light therapy, melatonin supplements, improving evening habits and sleep hygiene.
Insomnia involves difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep and waking early. Insomnia can last for a few nights to a few weeks and months. Symptoms include depressed mood, aggressiveness, and irritability. Treatment options are establishing a regular bedtime that includes relaxation before lights out, melatonin supplements, or other medications. However, it’s important that when treating insomnia to find the underlying psychological issues and treat them first, as they are usually the cause of insomnia.
REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD)
This disorder causes interruptions in the brain during REM sleep and allows a child to physically act out their dreams, in which they could harm themselves or others. Symptoms include jumping from bed, kicking, yelling, and punching while asleep. Treatment options include therapy and melatonin supplements.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
This is insomnia that results from prickly or tingling sensations that causes your child to want to move their legs. Other symptoms include jerking of legs or arms while asleep as well as restlessness. Because RLS can happen due to an iron deficiency, treatment often involves iron supplementation.
Sleepwalking occurs when a child gets out of bed and walks around, with their eyes opened, while still asleep. Nonsensical talking may also occur. Another common symptom is your child not remembering sleepwalking. Problems arise when the sleepwalking disrupts other family members' sleep. Treatment options include relaxation before lights out, locking the door and removing objects that could harm your child while sleepwalking.
Narcolepsy occurs when the brain fails to regulate sleep-wake cycles. As such, during the day children may have narcolepsy experiences, including immediately falling asleep for a few seconds to several minutes. Symptoms include overwhelming daytime sleepiness, sleep paralysis, hallucinations, and insomnia during the night. Treatment options include medications, scheduling naps during the day, and improving bedtime routines.
Counseling is a treatment option for many types of sleep disorders. Most often, there are other underlying factors such as stress, anxiety, or depression. Therapy with a behavioral health professional can help your child create positive behaviors.
At Well Street, we believe it is important for your child to receive help from a behavioral health care professional as soon as you suspect your child is suffering from sleep disorders. In fact, based on our studies, we found that written or video-based material used to convey behavioral skills to parents may contribute to improvements in your child’s behavior.