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Sleep Disorders in Children

Does your child snore or have trouble falling asleep at night? Are teachers or caregivers mentioning that your child is excessively tired or overly excitable during the day?

If so, it could be more than just typical kid behavior – your child could be suffering from a chronic or severe sleep disorder.

When it comes to treating sleep disorders, children's needs are different than those of adults. 

Crozer Health 's pediatric sleep program offers services for children who are at least six months old with a suspected sleep disorder.

To learn more or schedule an appointment, call 1-888-SLEEP-03 (1-888-753-3703).

Childhood Sleep Conditions

Children can experience all of the sleep problems of adults, but their symptoms may be different. The top sleep conditions affecting children are:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Children with ADHD often have trouble getting to sleep at night – they might resist going to bed and feel tired upon waking. Prescribed medication for ADHD also can affect sleep patterns.
  • Behavioral sleep disorders: This category of sleep problems can include bedtime resistance as related to separation anxiety, fears about going to bed and/or falling asleep, adolescent sleep problems and sleep schedule problems, all of which can be treated with counseling or other methods.
  • Circadian clock changes: All adolescents’ sleep patterns change at around age 13. They might get sleepy later in the evening and wake up later in the morning and find that waking up for school is difficult. While most adolescents catch up on their sleep during weekends, a small segment of this age group finds they can only sleep during certain times of the day, leading to chronic sleep deprivation.
  • Insomnia: If insomnia goes untreated, children who develop this condition early in life find the problem follows them into adulthood. 
  • Narcolepsy: Children with narcolepsy often have difficulty waking and may be confused or aggressive in the morning and have difficulty concentrating in school. Symptoms typically emerge during the teen years.
  • Night waking: It’s normal for babies to wake up at night, but as children get older, waking frequently can interfere with needed rest and disrupt the household. This is a common problem but without treatment, it can become a cyclical one.
  • Parasomnias: This group of sleep problems includes episodic behaviors more common in children than adults, such as sleepwalking, bed-wetting and night terrors. These events are usually infrequent but if they begin to occur more regularly they might require medical attention. Typically, these behaviors occur when the child is both asleep and awake and they tend to affect younger children.
  • Sleep apnea: Childhood sleep apnea is thought to occur in about one to three percent of children; however, in some cases, what parents perceive as sleep apnea might actually be asthma. Symptoms in children include snoring, difficulty breathing, mouth breathing and excessive sweating. Other signs might be large adenoids, developmental delays, weight gain, and, in older children, learning difficulties and ADHD.

What You Can Do

Before you see a doctor, there are many techniques for self-treatment that you can try at home to enhance the quality and duration of your child’s sleep. 

  • Diet: Don’t give your child food or drinks with caffeine within six hours of bedtime. 
  • Setting routines: Establish a regular nightly bedtime and waking time. On weekends, these times should not differ from weekdays by more than one hour or so. Before bed, create a relaxing ritual that includes bathing or reading.
  • Bedroom conditions: Create a relaxing, pleasant sleep environment with a comfortable bed. Keep the room at an adequate temperature and make sure it’s sufficiently dark and as quiet as possible.
  • Other suggestions: After dinner, playtime should be relaxing and not too active. Reduce exposure to television, radio and other noises at the child’s bedtime. Avoid getting into bed with a child to help get them to sleep.

What Your Child's Doctor Can Do

If self-care does not work and your child is still struggling with sleep problems, it may be time to contact one of the experts at the Crozer Health Pediatric Sleep Center at Crozer-Chester Medical Center.

At an initial appointment, your child will be seen quickly and evaluated with a detailed history and physical examination. 

Pediatric sleep testing options include:

  • Polysomnography: Also known as a sleep study, the polysomnogram is a noninvasive procedure that involves spending a night or two in a sleep center.
  • Multiple sleep latency test (MSLT): This diagnostic tool, consisting of four or five 20-minute naps scheduled two hours apart, measures the time from when a patient first lies down to when they fall asleep and monitors biological activity during sleep. MSLT can be used to test for narcolepsy and to distinguish between physical fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness. 
  • Sleep log: Writing in a diary to record specific sleeping and waking habits over a period of time can be an easy and efficient way to help your physician diagnose a sleep problem or monitor whether a treatment is working. Some categories to keep track of include sleep and wake times, nap times and general mood and functioning.
  • Additional pulmonary testing: Spirometry, lung function testing, bronchoscopy and exercise testing are also available to investigate cough, asthma and other respiratory conditions.

Treating your child’s sleep problems might include:

  • Counseling: Many behavioral sleep problems can be addressed through counseling. Our team will give you strategies for changing your child’s negative habits and sleep patterns.
  • Medication: Most of the medications prescribed for adult sleep problems are not necessarily recommended for children. In certain cases, medication might be prescribed if the problem does not respond to other treatments. 
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): This respiratory ventilator is very effective in helping obese children with sleep apnea by increasing air pressure in the throat so that the airways don’t collapse during inhalation. The device consists of a mask or prongs that fit inside the nose, and users wear it during sleep for a more restful night.
  • Surgery: In many cases, obstructive sleep apnea or insomnia caused by abnormal snoring or severe nasal obstructions can be cured by surgery if other treatments don’t work. Surgery can stabilize the upper airway by modifying its size and shape, thus opening it up for easier breathing during sleep.

Are you ready to put your child’s sleep problems to rest?

The Sleep Centers at Crozer Health  all offer specialized care for our youngest patients:

  • Flexible check-in times to accommodate your child’s bedtime
  • A family lounge with a TV and snacks
  • Sleeping accommodations for parents

If you’d like your child to be evaluated for a sleep disorder, ask your child’s primary care physician before calling for an appointment with a Crozer Health Sleep Specialist. If your child has already been evaluated for a sleep disorder and has a valid prescription, you can make an appointment by calling 1-888-SLEEP-03 (1-888-753-3703). You can choose one of our four locations that are convenient for you and your child.

Request an Appointment

To request an appointment at a Crozer Health Sleep Center, complete our online secure appointment request form or call 1-888-753-3703.