When most people talk about someone having a sleep disorder, they usually have a specific type of person in mind. That person is usually an older, obese male, who is well into his 50’s. Contrary to popular belief, sleep disorders now affect all age groups and weights. Although it is still mostly a male disease, women are catching up rapidly. Interestingly, sleep disorders also can also manifest themselves during childhood. The difference between a sleep disorder in an adult and a child is not in the symptoms, but rather in the cause of the disorder.
Many sleep problems that children experience are related to the development of poor sleeping habits. As young children, habits are developed that help us to get to sleep and keep us sleeping. However, if these habits aren’t a healthy way to obtain a good night of sleep, detrimental sleeping patterns can remain into their adulthood. It is also possible for a child to develop a sleeping disorder due to behavioral issues such as separation anxiety. Bedtime is one of the first types of separation from parents a child experiences. In order to try to eliminate that fear, children tend to fight to stay awake for as long as possible.
One common sleep disorder that children experience is known as OSA, or Obstructive Sleep Apnea. A child will feel tired when they wake up in the morning and be lethargic during the day. The lack of sleep also negatively impacts a child’s school work as memory and concentration is difficult without effective rest. A child may also become hyperactive and, in some cases, aggressive and disobedient. If your child is obese or has enlarged tonsils, the risk is even greater for developing a sleep disorder.
Children may also have other problems while sleeping like nocturnal enuresis, which is more commonly known as bed wetting. It is very common for young children to wet the bed. However, if this continues between the ages of 4 and 5, a child may have a hormonal imbalance that causes their bladders to fill up while they’re sleeping. This typically causes the child to feel a sense of embarrassment and frustration. Less common is somnambulism or sleep walking which typically affects children with a family history of walking in their sleep
Tip: It is important to remember that it is not the quantity of sleep a child gets but its quality. A child who gets 7 hours of deep, consistent sleep will typically be better off than a child who gets 10 hours of interrupted, restless sleep.