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Children and Sleep

Pediatric Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders in children and adolescents are common; even infants may have sleep disorders. Studies have shown that poor sleep quality and/or quantity in children are associated with a host of problems, including academic, behavioral, developmental and social difficulties, weight abnormalities, and other health problems. Not only do pediatric sleep problems affect child health, but they can impact family dynamics and parental or sibling sleep. Children may suffer from problems falling or staying asleep; physiological problems such as obstructive sleep apnea abnormal or disruptive behaviors during sleep such as sleepwalking or other parasomnias symptoms that occur near sleep onset such as restless legs syndrome, and daytime symptoms such as excessive sleepiness, cataplexy and others. While adults may suffer from the same problems, the etiology, presentation, and associated findings in children may be very different than those seen in adults. In addition, developmental aspects of childhood play an important role in pediatric sleep, such as in the cases of early childhood insomnias and adolescent delayed sleep phase syndrome.

Treating pediatric sleep disorders

The Stanford Sleep Medicine Center was the first clinic to treat sleep disorders in children. We quickly realized that treating pediatric sleep disorders starts with setting expectations regarding normal pediatric sleep. Behavior modification plans may address some sleep issues. In addition to board-certified pediatric and adult sleep physicians with expertise in pediatric sleep disorders, the Stanford Sleep Clinic has team of behavioral psychologists certified in the treatment of sleep disorders who have expertise in working with children and their families. Using scheduled awakenings, positive reinforcement, and other techniques may be helpful in some cases of sleep disorders. In other cases, your doctor may recommend medications or supplements to treat a specific sleep disorder or underlying condition. Finally, in some cases, evaluation for specific interventions by a specialist in allergy, Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgery, orthodontics, or other specialties may be recommended. In the case of obstructive sleep apnea, continuous positive airway pressure may be recommended.

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