• Children & Sleep

  • Sleep Disorders to Look for in Children

    Nightmares often occur at times of transition, stress, or change in a child's routine. They usually occur later in the night and are remembered the next day. Fortunately, nightmares tend to go away naturally. Encouraging your child to talk about the nightmare, discussing comforting images before bedtime, and avoiding television immediately before bedtime are strategies that assist in alleviating nightmares.

    Sleep Terrors/Sleep Walking occur most frequently from 4 to 8 years of age. These sleep disruptions occur during the early part of the night. The child is both asleep and awake at the same time and often has no memory of the event the next day. Waking or comforting the child is usually not helpful as it prolongs the event. Be sure your child's room and your house is safe. Most important, encourage him/her to get enough sleep.

    Narcolepsy is often first noticed in puberty, but may occur as early as ten years of age. Children with narcolepsy experience excessive daytime sleepiness and uncontrollable "sleep attacks," even when they get enough sleep. Children with narcolepsy should be diagnosed by a physician.

    Sleep Apnea is a serious disorder in which there are pauses in breathing during sleep. Children with sleep apnea may snore loudly, experience restless sleep and be sleepy during the day. Enlarged tonsils or adenoids, allergies, weight problems and other medical problems may contribute to sleep apnea. There are many ways to treat apnea, so it is important to see your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment. Thirteen percent of children age 6 to 11 and 14 percent of adolescents age 12 to 19 are overweight. The ever-increasing waistlines put children at risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. Those extra pounds also put children at risk for sleep apnea, a serious, debilitating and potentially life-threatening sleep disorder. Sleep apnea, generally considered a problem among middle-aged men, can be a problem for youngsters, too. The increasing rate of obesity in children is linked to the increase in sleep apnea cases. The effects of sleep apnea and poor sleep in children are vast. When children to not get the sleep they need, they are at risk for health, performance and safety problems. The result is often difficulties in school. Sleep deprivation in children is often overlooked or attributed to attention-deficit or behavior disorders. A study of 866 children between ages two through 13 found that youngsters who frequently snore or have sleep disorders are almost twice as likely to suffer from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

    If your child suffers from any of the sleep conditions above, talk to your child's primary care physician or pediatrician to see if a sleep study is right for your child.

    Sleep Tips Per Age Group

    Toddlers (1-3 years old)
    Sleep Needed: 12-14 hours  
    Naps: 1.5-3.5 hours
    1. Maintain a daily sleep schedule and consistent bedtime routine.
    2. The bedroom environment should be the same every night and throughout the night.
    3. Set limits.
    4. Encourage the use of a security object.
    5. Develop a regular daily bedtime schedule.

    Preschoolers (3-5 years old)
    Sleep Needed: 11-13 hours    
    Naps: End by 5 years of age    
    Nighttime fears may emerge
    1. Maintain a regular and consistent sleep schedule
    2. Follow-through with a bedtime routine every night.
    3. The bedroom environment should be the same every night and throughout the night. It should be cool, dark, quiet, and without a TV.
    4. Watch for difficulty breathing, unusual nighttime awakenings, chronic sleep problems, and behavior problems during the day.

    School-Age (5-12 years old)
    Sleep Needed: 10-11 hours
    1. Introduce healthy sleep habits, disease prevention and health promotion.
    2. Continue to emphasize the need for a regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
    3. The child's bedroom should be conducive to sleep: cark, cool, and quiet.
    4. Set limits.
    5. Avoid caffeine.
    6. Watch for signs of chronic difficulty sleeping, loud snoring, difficulty breathing, unusual nighttime awakenings and frequent daytime sleepiness.

    Studies show that 37% of children, kindergarten through fourth grade, suffer from at least one sleep related problem. If your child experiences any of these sleep problems or is very sleepy during the day, be sure to consult with your child's physician.

    The Penrose-St. Francis Sleep Disorders Center treats children age 4 years and older. We have two sleep rooms that can accommodate a child and a parent.

    Preparing for Your Child's Study

    • Avoid giving your child any stimulants such as caffeine.Bathe your child prior to arriving, to remove any hair products or body lotions.
    • Please do not allow your child to take any naps (if possible) the day of the study.
    • Give your child any regularly scheduled medications, if applicable.

    Bring with you:

    • Something comfortable for both your child and yourself to sleep in.
    • Current list of medications.
    • A special blanket or toy to ease your child's transition.
    • A favorite VHS and DVD movie.
    • If your child is used to a bedtime snack, feel free to bring it along.
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