Few things worry parents as much as a child who can't get restful sleep. Snoring, gasping or pauses in breathing can rob children of the rest they need and may even be signs of more serious problems. Children show symptoms of poor sleep differently than adults.
Barriers to good sleep include:
As disorders go, narcolepsy and insomnia are rare in children, while sleep apnea is more common.
Sleep apnea is a condition that disrupts sleep, which can have serious consequences. Enlarged tonsils or adenoids are the leading cause of sleep apnea among 3- to 8-year-olds, while among teenagers, weight gain is the most common culprit. The condition can present with snoring, gasping during sleep, pauses in breathing, and overall restless sleep. It can be difficult to distinguish between habitual snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, so physicians typically recommend that children with these symptoms undergo a sleep study in a qualified pediatric sleep center for proper diagnosis.
If obstructive sleep apnea is identified, treatment options can be developed based on the root cause. In the case of enlarged tonsils and adenoids, an ear/nose/throat specialist might be brought in to remove excess tissue. With other patients, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine might be prescribed to assist the patient with breathing throughout the night.
Children with poor sleep may exhibit:
To diagnose sleep problems, doctors need to evaluate each patient's sleep history and determine the appropriate interventions. In some cases, a comprehensive sleep study is needed to observe children while they sleep.