Growing children need to get a healthy amount of sleep to support their development physically and mentally. By the time children are school age, childhood sleep deprivation may cause them difficulties concentrating and learning in the classroom. They may also exhibit problem behavior. The recommended amount of sleep each day for toddlers is 12 hours (including daytime naps); 11 hours for preschoolers (including naps); and 10 to 11 hours for elementary school kids. If children are unable to get the required amount of sleep because of a sleep disorder such as childhood sleepwalking or insomnia, they're going to struggle in more than one area of their lives.
Childhood Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a condition that causes breathing difficulties during sleep in children and adults. Due to an internal blockage in airflow, children affected by sleep apnea will have gaps in their breathing while sleeping, and may take only very shallow breaths. The condition can be detrimental to child development, leaves children to tired to learn at school. In severe cases, it can be directly damaging to physical health.
Symptoms of childhood sleep apnea include: lack of growth, daytime tiredness, swollen tonsils and adenoids, restless sleep, and behavioral problems during the day (including hyperactivity). In severe cases it can lead to complications affecting blood pressure and the heart and lungs.
Treatment for childhood sleep apnea may take the form of surgery to remove the tonsils and adenoids, weight loss if a child is obese, and treating underlying medical conditions such as allergies or sinus problems.
Childhood Obesity Sleep Disorders
Recent studies have linked childhood sleep deprivation to obesity in kids. But childhood obesity can also be the cause, not just the consequence of childhood sleep disorders. Obesity in adults is known to be a cause of sleep apnea, and the same applies to children. The positive aspect of this is that it may take only some healthy eating and exercise to cure a child's sleep problem.
Childhood insomnia is a general term for problems which prevent kids getting a decent sleep at night. Insomnia can be caused by specific sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, or by lifestyle factors such as staying up too late watching TV or over-stimulation. Sometimes keeping kids busy with a lot of activities during the day tires them out but also makes them hyper and unable to calm down enough to sleep well at night. Causes of childhood insomnia include caffeine consumption, stress, anxiety, asthma, itchy skin (eczema), and the side effects of certain medications. Treatment with medication for childhood insomnia is an absolute last resort. Parents are recommended to make lifestyle changes first.
Childhood narcolepsy is a rare neurological sleep disorder which causes excessive daytime sleepiness and disturbed sleep at night. Narcoleptic children tend to fall asleep at unexpected times - you might find a child with narcolepsy fast asleep at daycare even while the other kids are busy playing his favorite game. Narcolepsy can have other unpleasant symptoms such as moments of temporary paralysis and hallucinations. Treatment of narcolepsy involves medication, behavioral changes (scheduled nap times and healthy sleeping routines) and education of friends, teachers and family in coping with a narcoleptic child. Each child will need an individually tailored treatment package.
Childhood Night Terrors
Childhood dreams are not always pleasant, as most adults can probably remember from their own time as kids. Children have big imaginations and nightmares and bad dreams are common. Sometimes, however, these bad dreams take on a more intense, terrifying aspect for kids. Such dreams are called night terrors. When a child has a night terror, he may scream, sweat and move around in his sleep. He may also have accelerated breathing and heart rate. Night terrors are often scarier for parents who wake up to all the commotion than for children (the kids often don't even remember having them). There is no cure for night terrors - it's best not to wake a child as this may scare him even more. Make sure he's safe and stay with him until it's over. Persistent night terrors are very rare, if your child is having them on a regular basis, a doctor may recommend some type of medication as a last resort.