Common Sleep Disorders in Children

Am Fam Physician. 2014 Mar 1;89(5):368-77.

Abstract

Up to 50% of children will experience a sleep problem. Early identification of sleep problems may prevent negative consequences, such as daytime sleepiness, irritability, behavioral problems, learning difficulties, motor vehicle crashes in teenagers, and poor academic performance. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs in 1% to 5% of children. Polysomnography is needed to diagnose the condition because it may not be detected through history and physical examination alone. Adenotonsillectomy is the primary treatment for most children with obstructive sleep apnea. Parasomnias are common in childhood; sleepwalking, sleep talking, confusional arousals, and sleep terrors tend to occur in the first half of the night, whereas nightmares are more common in the second half of the night. Only 4% of parasomnias will persist past adolescence; thus, the best management is parental reassurance and proper safety measures. Behavioral insomnia of childhood is common and is characterized by a learned inability to fall and/or stay asleep. Management begins with consistent implementation of good sleep hygiene practices, and, in some cases, use of extinction techniques may be appropriate. Delayed sleep phase disorder is most common in adolescence, presenting as difficulty falling asleep and awakening at socially acceptable times. Treatment involves good sleep hygiene and a consistent sleep-wake schedule, with nighttime melatonin and/or morning bright light therapy as needed. Diagnosing restless legs syndrome in children can be difficult; management focuses on trigger avoidance and treatment of iron deficiency, if present.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep Wake Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Sleep Wake Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders* / therapy