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Sleep Disorders in Children That Affect the Quality of Sleep

Adolescents, infants, and children can experience sleeping disorders. According to Sleep Reports, poor quality and/or quantity of sleep in children can be associated with a number of problems among them behavioral, weight abnormalities, academic, social and developmental problems among others. It is important to understand that sleeping disorders in children not only affects the health of the child but also the sleeping patterns of the parents or other siblings. Therefore, you should seek help from an expert in case your child is experiencing any sleeping disorders. Sleeping disorders in children include:

1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
OSA occurs when the airway partially or completely collapses repeatedly throughout the night. Normally, when one sleeps, the soft tissues of the thorax relax. However, for children with OSA, these tissues block the upper side of the airway causing difficulty in breathing and hence disrupt sleep. When one is asleep and he/she is not breathing normally, oxygen levels drop prompting the person to wake up to regain the normal breathing pattern. Children who have OSA usually have brief awakenings throughout the night. Even though these awakenings are brief and the children affected might not be aware, they will be very sleepy or fatigued the following day. Snoring, breathing through the mouth, restless sleep, cognitive and behavioral problems during the day and weight loss/poor weight gain are some of the symptoms associated with obstructive sleep apnea.

2. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) & Sleep-Related Hypoventilation
These are respiratory conditions that affect the quality of sleep in children. CSA occurs when a child stops breathing during sleep because the brain and the body cannot cue to breathe. This is different from obstructive sleep apnea because, in CSA, there is no breathing effort (the body and the brain do not synchronize). You should understand that in OSA, there is difficulty in breathing but in CSA there is no breathing effort because the body is not functioning normally. As a result, the child will experience shallow breathing episodes as he/she sleeps. These episodes will last no more than 10 seconds making it hard for the child or anyone else to be aware that this is happening. However, if you are keen or seek help from a doctor, you can identify the signs that your child is experiencing a sleeping disorder.

3. Insomnia
This is a common sleeping disorder with both daytime and nighttime symptoms. Nighttime symptoms of insomnia include continuous difficulty falling and/or staying asleep as well as non-restorative sleep. On the other hand, during the day, fatigue, loss of memory, difficulty in concentrating and concerns and/or worries about sleep are some symptoms associated with insomnia. However, it is very important for parents and other people to understand that the persistence of these symptoms is the only guarantee that one has insomnia because everyone experiences disturbed sleep at some point.

4. Parasomnias
Parasomnias are sleeping disorders that are associated with abnormal behaviors when one is sleeping. There are vast nighttime sleep behaviors that can affect the quality of sleep in children. The common ones include:

i. Sleepwalking or talking – this occurs when a child talks or walks while sleeping. He or she might not be aware of what is happening because technically he/she should be asleep.

ii. Nightmares – these are clear dreams that cause fear, terror or anxiety. Nightmares can be differentiated from night terrors because nightmares can be recalled when one wakes up.

iii. sleep terrors – they are also known as night terrors and they can be confused with nightmares because the symptoms are similar. However, in night terrors, the child can exhibit certain behaviors such as panic, fear or trying to escape although they are unconscious.

iv. Confessional arousal – this happens when a child wakes up abruptly and they act strange. He/she might be confused, unresponsive or disoriented because the mind is yet to relate to the current condition.

vi. REM behavior disorder – when a child has a REM disorder, he or she will have increased muscle tone while sleeping. In fact, you might see the legs twitching or slight hand movements. These involuntary movements can cause injuries to the individual or even other bed partners especially when they are pronounced.

Normally, everyone should sleep for at least eight hours to be effective and maintain good health. However, poor working conditions, diet, work and other factors affect the quality of sleep resulting in other related problems. These disorders can affect children and even adults and the only way one can get help is by seeking professional treatment and advice. Alternatively, you can change your lifestyle to improve the quantity and quality of sleep.

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