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Most Common Sleep Disturbances Observed in Children

Mukta Gaikwad Apr 23, 2019
Sleep disturbances are very commonly seen in children. Mostly these fade away with time. However, if left untreated, they can cause permanent damage.
Sleep disturbances can be an indicator of social and emotional adjustments at school and amongst friends, which generally manifest into irregular sleep patterns amongst children. Both, parents and teachers need to understand these, while dealing with sleep disturbances in children.
It is very important to understand what causes these disturbances, rather than just treating them superficially. There are two types of sleep that all of us experience, including children. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is when we dream and are unaware of our breathing, heart rate and other factors.
The NREM (Non Rapid Eye Movement) is the second type of sleep, wherein the person sleeps lightly and can be woken up easily. In children, sleep disturbances depend on the types of sleep they are having, as they are both developed before birth.

Sleep Disturbances in Kids

Night Terrors

Night terrors are terrors not just for children, but for parents too. These are mostly experienced by children between the age of 4 - 10, during their NREM sleep. Night terrors are described by a sudden and a startling waking in the middle of the night. The child often wakes up in a shock, showing motor activity and sweating at times.
In most of the cases, a child may not even remember what he/she dreamt of. An emotional outburst is a definite characteristic of a night terror. A child psychologist can treat this with intervention techniques. If this problem goes untreated for long, your child may develop a permanent fear towards something that will lead to poor development.

Bed Wetting

Enuresis/bed wetting during sleep is a common problem amongst children between ages of 5-12. This problem is usually associated with hereditary showing slow development. It can also be due to small bladder capacity and emotional stress. Prescribed medication, bed wetting alarms and addressing emotional stress directly can help your child sleep like a baby.


Sleepwalking is not uncommon among children. In this case, the child sits upright in the bed with eyes wide open. However, he/she fails to see anything. They talk with an inscrutable speech with garbled words. Once again early intervention is the way to treat this problem.
The dangers of sleepwalking are hurting oneself while walking. Thus, keep the floor clear from sharp objects and make sure you close all windows and doors of the house to avoid major mishaps.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a problem amongst adults, but it is also seen amongst a few children. Obstructed air passages cause difficulty in breathing, which causes sleep apnea.
Snoring, breathing from the mouth, sleepiness during the day and catching up with breath in sleep are few symptoms of sleep apnea. Nasal continuous positive airway pressure (NCAP) can help curing this problem and improving sleep patterns.


Cases of narcolepsy are rarely seen, but they are equally dangerous. This sleep disorder is genetic in nature. Narcolepsy starts during adolescence and can continue forever, if it goes undetected. Sleep attacks, which mean unavoidable urges to sleep, sleep-onset paralysis or sleep-onset hallucinations are some of the effects of this disorder.
Only a sleep specialist can rectify this disorder. Normally seen prescription for narcolepsy include more than 12 hours of sleep, medications and scheduling naps in between the day.
Sleep disturbances can be treated with early intervention techniques. About 30% of the children suffer from sleep disorder. Emotional stress is the main reason for any disorders. A child between the age of 4 - 13 deals with recognizing, comprehending and experiencing a lot of emotions.
Even though they may seem negligible to us, they mean a great deal to kids. Thus, with parental support and care, these disorders can be treated permanently for your child's better health and development.