What are the Signs of Sleep Disorder in Children & How to Improve Child’s Sleep?

About Sleep Disorder in Children:

Children need 9 hours of sleep, as lack of sleep can lead to negative effects on their performance in school, extracurricular activities, and social relationships. According to the American Psychiatric Association, sleep disorder is a problem with sleep quality, timing, and duration.(1) Sleep disorders can lead to distress and also reduce the ability to function properly.

Sleep disorder is known to affect many children. A study done in 2014, estimated that about 50% of children experience sleep disorders.(2) The sleep disorders include:

If a child has a sleep disorder, the whole family is affected. The sleep disorder in a child can be addressed by a healthcare provider.

What are the Signs of Sleep Disorder in Children?

Children usually take a lot of time settling down before bedtime. But those with sleep disorders have a lot of trouble in it.

The signs shown by a child suffering from a sleep disorder are:

  • The child continuously demands one thing or the other such as another book, song, drink, or takes continuous trips to the bathroom.
  • Complains of itchy legs.
  • Snores loudly at night.
  • Sleeps just for 90 minutes or less.

Most of the time children have occasional nights of restlessness but in a few, it may continue for several nights, which may indicate an underlying cause.

Children with inadequate sleep would show the following signs in the daytime:

  • Acting in disruptive ways
  • Being moody and irritable
  • Failing to perform their usual level in school

When kids don’t sleep well there may be numerous physical, emotional, and mental changes that include:

In teens, sleep deprivation may lead to negative thoughts and depressive feelings.

Types of Sleep Disorders and their Symptoms

Sometimes there are temporary disruptions that may lead to occasional sleep deprivation, such as being excited about a special day, thoughts of meeting a friend you awaited the most, or even being tired due to a nap-free day.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition in which the child stops breathing for 10 seconds or more while sleeping and the child has no idea of why it’s happening.

Parents may notice that the child sleeps with mouth open, snores loudly, and sleeps excessively during the day. In such a case, it is important to consult a healthcare professional.

Sleep apnea can lead to problems with learning and behavior.

Restless Leg Syndrome

In restless leg syndrome, a child may feel as if a bug is crawling and would continuously change positions while sleeping. This leads to poor sleep.

Restless leg syndrome was thought to be a problem in adults, but, according to the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation it can occur in childhood as well.(3)

There are numerous treatments for restless leg syndrome which include medications and supplements. It is important to consult a doctor to get treated appropriately.

Night Terrors

In night terrors, a child gets intensely scared or agitated, yelling or crying, and also sleepwalking. It is not just a nightmare for the child but can scare everyone else at home. Most of the night terrors occur about 90 minutes after going to sleep that is during the non-REM sleep.

There is no treatment for night terrors. They can be reduced by sticking to a sleep schedule and minimizing night disturbances.

How to Improve Child’s Sleep?

The parents and caregivers have to be active to help the child improve sleep.

There are a few ways recommended by the experts that can help the child in getting the much-needed rest.

Set a Routine

Setting up a routine for the child can help them go to bed on time. This prevents sleeping late.

Doing the same things every night helps a child in getting used to the routine.

Promote Relaxation

Quiet reading, a warm bath before sleeping, or keeping the lights of the bedroom dim, helps a child relax. Also, make sure that the temperature of the room is neither too hot nor too cold.

A relaxing environment promotes good sleep.

Keep the Gadgets Away

Make sure you keep the electronics and the gadgets away during bedtime. Make sure that the child is away from the screen at least one hour before bedtime.

Spend Time Together

Spend a few minutes before bedtime having a conversation with the children about the day or cuddling them. This relaxes the kids and helps them get a good sleep.

Sleep is important for all human beings, especially for the little ones as it helps them grow, learn, and function properly. If you feel the home adjustments and changes are not helping the child sleep well, consult a doctor.

A doctor can recommend therapy or treatment and might also give advice on some new techniques to help the child get a good sleep. Never ignore any condition of a child that might hamper their growth and development.