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Child sleep disorders

Approximately 4% of children receive a formal sleep disorder diagnosis.
It is estimated that up to 50% of children experience some type of sleep issues, and paediatricians report that sleep problems are one of the most commonly discussed topics during health-care visits for children.
Early identification and treatment of sleep issues is key in preventing negative health and behavioural effects.

Approximately 4% of children receive a formal sleep disorder diagnosis. Common sleep disorders that occur in children include obstructive sleep apnea, parasomnias (such as sleepwalking, sleep talking, confusional arousals, nightmares and sleep terrors), behavioral insomnia of childhood, delayed sleep phase disorder and restless legs syndrome. Below you can find a table of common sleep disorders in children, their prevalence and treatment (from Common Sleep Disorders in Children, Am Fam Physician, 2014). If you are concerned that your child may have a sleep disorder, you should always consult with your paediatrician.

Overall, the recommendations for promoting healthy sleep habits in children include having set bedtime routines, creating a calm and relaxing environment in the bedroom, taking exercise during the day, and avoiding stress and conflict. In the Stella app, we have provided an "Advice for parents" track to help you establish good sleep hygiene for your child.
Common sleep disorders in children
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Sleepwalking
Sleep terrors
Nightmares
Behavioural insomnia of childhood
Delayed sleep phase disorder
Restless legs syndrome
Confusional arousals
Prevalence: 1-5%
Symptoms: Snoring, unusual sleep positions, sleep-related paradoxical breathing, morning headaches, daytime sleepiness

Treatment: Adenotonsillectomy, continual positive airway pressure, nasal steroids
Prevalence: 17% in children
Symptoms: Walking during sleep, difficult to awaken during episode, eyes open, confusion or agitation, unusual or dangerous behaviours

Treatment: Reassurance (usually resolves spontaneously), increased total sleep time, scheduled awakenings, bedroom/house safety
Prevalence: 1-6.5%
Symptoms: Intense fear, screaming/crying, difficult to awaken from episode, potentially dangerous activities

Treatment: Reassurance (usually resolves spontaneously), increased total sleep time, scheduled awakenings, bedroom/house safety
Prevalence: 10-50%
Symptoms: Upleasant dreams, increased sympathetic response (increased heart rate, increased respiratory rate), reluctance to sleep, may be associated with mood disorders

Treatment: Reassurance (usually resolves spontaneously), increased total sleep time, scheduled awakenings, bedroom/house safety, cognitive behavioural therapy
Prevalence: 10-30%
Symptoms: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep if certain conditions are not present (i.e. parent rocking the child to sleep), frequent night-time awakenings, bedtime refusal, frequent night-time awakenings, refusal to return to sleep after awakening

Treatment: Prevention, parental education, and extinction techniques are effective
Prevalence: 7-16% in adolescents
Symptoms: Difficulty falling asleep and waking up at socially acceptable times (at least a two-hour delay), “Night owl”

Treatment: Sleep hygiene education, regular sleep-wake schedule, avoidance of bright lights before bedtime, melatonin, bright light therapy
Prevalence: approximately 2%
Symptoms: Urge to move the legs with associated discomfort, often begins in the evening, worsens with rest, eases with movement, may be associated with iron deficiency

Treatment: Avoidance of stimulants such as nicotine and caffeine, discontinue offending medications (antihistamines, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and tricyclic antidepressants),iron replacement
Prevalence: 17% in 3-13 yr olds, 4.2% in those over 15
Symptoms: Inappropriate behaviour, slurred speech, confusion after awakening

Treatment: Reassurance (usually resolves spontaneously), increased total sleep time, scheduled awakenings, bedroom/house safety
Kids sleep resources
Here we have gathered links to local health agencies that provide information about sleep disorders in children and healthcare options for children that experience trouble sleeping.
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