As a parent to a little one, it can be hard enough getting the right amount of sleep. Add to that a child with a sleep disorder, and you have a surefire recipe for sleepless nights all around. It isn’t easy discovering that your child suffers from a sleep disorder. For starters, it means that he or she may not be getting an adequate amount of sleep to grow. Research suggests that 1 in 3 children struggle with sleeping at some point in their lives, and while disorders run a spectrum of severity, most can be addressed with a tailor-made treatment plan. Recognising a sleep disorder is key to getting help.
Many times, insomnia is a manifestation of something more, an underlying condition that may interfere with more than just quality sleep. To truly understand whether your child is a victim of a sleep disorder, it is important to first know how much sleep your child really needs.
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Age Quantity of Sleep
1 to 4 weeks 16-17 hours per day(day + night)
1 to 4 months 14-15 hours per day(day + night)
4 months to 1 year 14-15 hours per day(daytime naps + uninterrupted nighttime sleep)
1 to 3 years 12-14 hours per day(one daytime nap + uninterrupted nighttime sleep)
3 to 6 years 11-12 hours per day(one daytime nap, optional + uninterrupted nighttime sleep)
7 to 12 years 10-12 hours(uninterrupted nighttime sleep)
13 to 18 years 8-10 hours(uninterrupted nighttime sleep)
A sleep disorder can appear in many ways, with the most common symptom being excessive fatigue during the day. Here’s a list of disorders that are most commonly associated with kids.
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Excessive daytime sleepiness, or EDS, is a classic outcome of sleep deprivation and leads to drowsiness and exhaustion during the day. If your child exhibits continual grogginess, resorts to taking naps during the day even after outgrowing daytime naps, or struggles with waking up in the morning, speak to a paediatrician about your concerns. EDS is a common symptom of narcolepsy, sleep apnoea and restless leg syndrome.
Snoring doesn’t harm your child in any way, but it can signal a blockage in the airway. This can, in turn, lead to a sleep disorder. Snoring is usually caused by nasal congestion, respiratory disorders, a deviated septum or inflamed tonsils.
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Sleepwalking isn’t just reserved for the movies. In fact, it occurs in as many as 1 in 3 kids between the ages of 3 and 7. Sleepwalking can last up to 15 minutes and can be especially dangerous for children who recurrently turn on electrical appliances, walk out of the front door and switch on the hob. As alarming as sleepwalking can be for you as a parent, it is advisable not to wake your child up during such episodes, as it can lead to confusion and fear. Try childproofing your home to make it as conducive as possible for your child.
Trouble falling or staying asleep is a telltale sign of insomnia. If your child complains of not being able to sleep, or wakes up much earlier than normal, you may want to rule out insomnia. Insomnia can be triggered by a range of factors, including mental disorders, physical pain or stress. Evaluate your child’s ecosystem at home and at school to assess whether any major changes could have affected his or her sleep.
Nightmares come and go for most children and usually occur during REM sleep. Nightmares can leave kids feeling jolted, scared and unwilling to go back to sleep. They can begin as early as 3 years, and can pick up pace between the ages of 6 and 10. Left untreated, nightmares can compound into sleep disorders, anxiety and behavioural problems.
Bedwetting is one of the most common occurrences among children and not a cause for concern by itself. If your child continues to wet the bed beyond the age of five, however, it could be a manifestation of a sleep disorder. Bedwetting may be an outcome of a developmental delay, poor bladder control or emotional trauma. If the bedwetting is accompanied by daytime drowsiness, it could be a telling clue of a sleep disorder.
Sleep disorders are best nipped in the bud. Left unchecked, they can snowball into behavioural problems and social setbacks. If you suspect that your child suffers from a sleep disorder, your next step should be to speak to a paediatrician about your concerns.
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Oftentimes, a sleep disorder may veil one or more conditions that may actually be causing discomfort to your child. By seeking intervention early, you can gift your child and yourself well-deserved, quality sleep and exchange your days of numbered slumber for sleep you can keep.
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