How common are sleep problems in children?
Some estimates say that around 25% of children overall experience some type of sleep problem, ranging from difficulty falling asleep to more serious sleep disorders. The American Academy of Sleep puts these numbers even higher, saying that more than a third of elementary school kids and 40% of adolescents have significant sleep complaints. (Marcus, 8-8-2010) Either way, sleep problems are one of the most prevalent childhood disorders.
Are some children more susceptible to sleep problems?
Some children have a higher predisposition towards sleep problems. This is typically linked to a child’s physiology and/or inbuilt temperament: Kids who have a tendency to worry or who exhibit “high reactivity” in their stress response system are more prone to sleep problems. For example, it’s estimated that as many as three-quarters of children with neurodevelopmental or psychiatric conditions also have insomnia. (Peterson, 2013)
Types of Sleep Disorders in Children
There are several common sleeping problems in children that we’ll discuss in this chapter:
Occasional snoring is not itself a problem, but chronic snoring is often related to sleep apnea and may otherwise disturb a child’s sleep.
Sleep apnea and disordered breathing
As many as 20% of kids suffer from disordered breathing during sleep, a treatable condition that can be evidenced by snoring, mouth breathing, or pauses in breathing while asleep.
All children suffer the occasional bout of insomnia, but regular insomnia could be caused by stress or anxiety, or an underlying medical condition.
Sleep anxiety is commonly the byproduct of a general anxiety disorder, and may cause children to exhibit fear at bedtime and require lengthy bedtime rituals in order to get to sleep.
Children can also get restless leg syndrome, which is characterized by a compulsive need to move their lower extremities and can interfere with sleep.