Sleep Disorders in Children and Teens

Infants and Young Children

Infants and children under the age of six primarily present with trouble falling or staying asleep (insomnia).

In 75% of all cases, the causes of childhood insomnia are conditioned by environmental factors (bad association between the bed and the bedroom, lack of parenting skills).

In 25% of all cases, childhood insomnia is better explained by medical causes (colic, growing pains, etc.).

Some young children present with a lifelong sleep disorder, idiopathic insomnia, the cause of which is not known. This true form of childhood insomnia is linked to ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), temperamental behaviour and, but more rarely, SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Although this disorder is still not fully understood, it seems to be related to sleep disordered breathing.

Approximately 1-3% of children have sleep apnea, often because the adenoids are obstructing the upper airways.


Signs of insomnia in preschool-aged children

Tantrums at bedtime
Daytime sleepiness
ADHD (Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder)


Prepubescent School-Aged Children (Ages 6-12)

Parasomnias (sleepwalking or nightmares), bruxism and central nervous system hypersomnias occur primarily in this age group. Difficulties while awake related to ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) or periodic limb movements (day or night) may also appear; even cases of epilepsy. Lastly, poor attitudes or poor sleep habits present in early childhood risk being prolonged or exacerbated during this stage of life.

Recent studies show that sleep deprivation would be a common cause of disorders of daytime vigilance (drowsiness) or attention and agitation/aggressiveness problems observed at this age.


Signs of insomnia in school-age children

Difficulty falling asleep
Unrestful sleep
Daytime sleepiness
Attention and hyperactivity disorders
Emotional stress (early form of anxiety and depression)
Dysfunction in the mother/child or parent/child relationship


Teenagers (Ages 12-18)

In teens, the most common sleep disorder is delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS), affecting 7 to 16% of all teenagers. This sleep disorder would be the result of a physiological tendency to go to bed late at night and get up late in the morning. It is conditioned by environmental and social factors (school and extra-curricular activities, peer pressure, reduced parent supervision). Recent studies indicate that teenagers sleep less deeply (lower sleep quality and quantity). Cases of narcolepsy or sleep apnea can also appear in this stage of life.


S
igns of Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome in teenagers

Unrestful sleep
Fatigue
Attention deficits
Depression with suicidal tendency
School
absenteeism

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