What Causes Sleep Disorders in Children?

It’s one thing if you have a sleep disorder, but if it’s your children, you probably want them to get taken care of as soon as possible. There’s nothing worse than the body not getting enough rest. For adults, it affects our efficiency at work, but for children it can affect their ability to focus at school. What’s even scarier is that children can have sleep apnea, a condition where a person stops breathing multiple times during sleep. Healthline says, “Sleep apnea can lead to learning and behavior issues and even heart problems. Make sure to seek help if you notice the signs in your child” (Newton, 2018).  Not to scare you even more, but WebMD says, “Sleep problems and a lack of sleep can have negative effects on children’s performance in school, during extracurricular activities, and in social relationships.” (Alli, 2018).  So then what do you do? You’ve tried everything from reading multiple bedtime stories to running out their energy with extra playtime in hopes they wear themselves out. Nothing works! Don’t worry, we’ll get to solutions in just one second, but first thing’s first: what causes sleep disorders in children? 

Sleep disorder causes 

  • Separation anxiety – they might want to spend time with you to help them fall asleep. 
  • Caffeine – if your child has had too much caffeine or sugar, this can prevent them from falling asleep. 
  • Nightmares – regular nightmares or even night terrors can cause your child to lose sleep. 
  • Excitement – many times a child might be overly excited or overstimulated by something that happened or something to come (e.g. their birthday). 
  • Tonsils and adenoids – believe it or not, enlarged tonsils and adenoids can be a cause of sleep apnea in children. Just read what Shaunda M. Rodriguez, DO has to say about it: “Enlarged tonsils and adenoids are one of the main culprits for obstructive sleep apnea in children, a condition in which the airway is interrupted, causing restless sleep. Studies show that as many as 10 percent of all children may have sleep disturbances as a result of large tonsils and adenoids.”(Rodriguez, 2015). 
These are just a few of the things that might cause sleep disorders in children. After this, you might be wondering what the symptoms and signs are so that you can recognize it in a timely manner. 

How do I know if my child has a sleeping disorder? 

  • Lack of focus at school, at home, or in extracurricular activities
  • Snoring
  • Night terrors
  • A need for more naps during the day
  • Can’t fall asleep
  • Breathing stops in the middle of their sleep (sleep apnea)
Now that we know some of the causes and signs of sleep disorders in children, it’s time to talk about the risks of sleep disorders in children. Not only will it affect their attention at school and in extracurricular activities, but it can affect other aspects of their health as well. 

Sleep disorder risks 

  • Behavioral issues and changes in mood
  • Issues with memory and concentration
  • Higher risk of injury 
Don’t mean for this blog to be terrifying. We just hope this helps you recognize the signs and symptoms before things get worse. And don’t worry – we won’t end this thing without giving you some at-home solutions to help your child get better sleep and to help you have more peace of mind. 

What to do if your child is not sleeping

  • Cut off the TV – This one is even relevant for adults, but for children it’s much more important. Healthline states that the light from a television, phone, or laptop can disrupt the natural chemical known as melatonin, which helps us sleep (Healthline Editorial Team, 2017). 
  • Calm activities – Kids want to play. That’s natural. But just before bed it’s best not to rile them up with active activities. Set them up for an easy transition into sleep by spending time with them, but with calming activities like reading a book or bedtime story. 
  • Comfy bedroom – Make sure the bed is comfortable and soft. Ensure there’s not too many toys around as to prevent overstimulation. 
  • Visit a doctor/ENT specialist – To get the best results, take them to their pediatrician or even an ENT. If the issue is diagnosed as tonsils or adenoids, they can take care of that specific issue. Our practice at the Ear, Nose and Throat Institute actually treats issues of the tonsils and adenoids. For a same-day appointment, call 770-740-1860 or fill out the form at the top of the page. 
  • Be consistent with bedtimes – Once you know what kind of sleeper your child is (early riser, night owl) you can set specific bedtimes for your child’s needs. Forcing them to go to bed at specific times, even if they’re not ready, may cause issues. Children need at least 9 hours of sleep each night. Also being consistent with wake-up time is important as well. 
We hope this has been helpful for you and your child. Remember, if these at-home methods don’t work, bring them to a pediatrician or even to us at the ENT Institute. To schedule a same-day or Saturday appointment, call 770-740-1860 or fill out the form at the top of the page. 

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Breathing difficulty while sleeping is common which is known as Pediatric sleep-disordered breathing (SDB).This condition ranges from loud snoring to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).  It has been observed that 2 to 4% of pediatric population suffers form of OSA, and 10% snore regularly…Read More Does stress cause sleep apnea

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Newton, A. (2018, December 20). Sleep Disorders in Children: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments [Medical Article] Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/sleep-disorders-in-children Alli, R, MD. (2018, July 8). Sleep Disorders in Children[Medical Article] Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/sleep-disorders-in-children Rodriguez, S, DO. (2015, October 27). Sleep or behavioral problems? Tonsils and adenoids could be the culprits. [Medical Journal] Retrieved from https://www.kansas.com/living/health-fitness/article41526774.html Healthline Editorial Team. (2017, October 25). 10 Tips to Get Your Kids to Sleep [Medical Journal] Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/tips-get-your-kids-sleep