Sleep disorders in children have been reported to impact on children’s performance in school as well as social-emotional adjustment. Psychologist put an estimate of about 30 percent of children suffering from sleep disorder somewhere in their childhood. It is therefore prudent for parents to be aware of the sleep patterns that are normal in children, the type of sleep disorders and the available remedies for such. Normal patterns of sleep in children has been categorised into two broad classes namely rapid eye- movement (REM) sleep and non rapid-eye movement (NREM) sleep.
Common Sleep Disorders in Children
The rapid eye movement sleep is the one in which our eyes are in rapid movement under the eyelids and the both the heart beat and breathing becomes irregular. In addition, the body temperature control becomes unusual such that shivering is not there when it gets cold and sweating at high temperatures is not evident. The nerves impulse responsible for nervous messaging is inhibited making you somehow paralyzed and it is at this level that dreaming occurs. In the non rapid eye movement sleep, drowsiness characterises the initial stage of the sleep. Here waking is easy. At the deeper levels of the sleep waking becomes challenging and one can be confused and disoriented on waking up. Our muscles are more active during the NREM although they cannot move since there are nerves signal sent from the brain to the muscles to initiate movement.
These two sleep patterns are there even before birth. After birth, infants tend to sleep almost invariably. As they develop the sleep becomes less during the day and sleeping is longer at night. For instance, at the age of 6 months, infants sleep for 13 hours a day on average. By the time the children are two the sleep period reduces to about 12 hours and by 4 years they are doing between 10 to 12 hours of sleep. The drop in sleeping hours that becomes more significant during the adolescent stage is associated with biological reasons.
Some sleep disorders in children are quite common, mild and easy to remedy while in other cases the problem may become more severe indicating signs of underlying physical problems and if not treated they may yield long-term consequences. Consulting a paediatrician or a sleep specialist my help you in diagnosing sleep disorders. School psychologist too might give valuable input in identifying and dealing with the problem. In diagnosis of sleep disorders in children will involve evaluation of your child’s sleeping patterns, normal bed and wake time for school days and for the weekends and vacations, problems of falling asleep and the frequency of sleep. Variation in attention and concentration and change of behaviour in children may be a sign of sleep disorder.
There are a number of ways available for dealing with sleep disorders in children. In the case that your child suffers from night terrors, it is advisable to keep them as comfortable as possible. Instances of night terrors during sleep mostly occur when the child is in NREM stage of sleep mostly for children aged between 4 to 8 years. If the night terrors proves to be persistent it is vital to seek medical involvement.
Bedwetting is another recipe of sleep disorder. Bedwetting is common for children between the ages of 6 and 12 which are mostly to do with primary enuresis which is associated with lag in development, low capacity of the bladder, and hereditary reasons and this should not be alarming. However, secondary enuresis, which involves a notorious recurrence in bedwetting even after a year or more after children achieves bladder control, is a sign of emotional distress and remedy is thus called for. The remedies in such case include bladder control, reinforcement and responsibility training. Finding out any cause for emotional distress for your child and dealing with it might also be very helpful. This might involve counselling. There is also medication that can be administered to alleviate this cause of sleep disorders in children and visiting your child’s paediatrician would be vital.
Children may experience difficulty in falling asleep due to them having worries and fears. This condition is called the sleep-onset anxiety and may be as a result of trauma and other stressful events during the day. This sleep disorders in children can be dealt with by making use of calming bedtime habits, reassuring the child and even therapy for behavior and assisting the child deal with their worries and anxiety. Delayed sleep-phase syndrome is another sleep disorder. This problem involves the inability of the child to go to sleep during the normal sleep hours. This disorder may be corrected by light therapy, chemotherapy and adherence of a consistent schedule for the child’s sleep. Use of sedative therapy might also be of assistance. Sleep walking is also a symptom of sleep disorder. Awakening your child on a habitual schedule can address such events of sleep disorders in children.