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Rye Smiles for Life
10614 Warwick Avenue, Ste A, Fairfax, VA 22030

Children’s Sleeping Disorders: Sleep Apnea, Sleepwalking, Insomnia and Paralysis

Breathing and sleeping disorders can be common health problems in children. A lack of quality sleep can impair a child’s immune system and their ability to concentrate. This is why it’s so important that parents look out for common sleep issues in their children and take action to remedy them. Once a child is diagnosed and receives the necessary treatment, everyone in the family will surely sleep better.


What Is Sleepwalking?

Sleepwalking is a condition in which someone walks while asleep. Sleepwalking is most common in children younger than 13. This phenomenon typically happens within one to two hours after falling asleep, and depending on the child’s environment, it can be quite dangerous. It is difficult to wake a child who is sleepwalking; once wakened, the child may be frightened or disoriented.

Causes of Sleepwalking

This problem could be something that runs in the family. Other potential causes may include:

  • Stress
  • Illness
  • Medication side effects
  • Irregular sleeping pattern or schedule

Symptoms of Sleepwalking

When sleepwalking, the child may get out of bed and start wandering around the house or even outside. Other symptoms of sleepwalking include:

  • Sleep-talking
  • Clumsy movement
  • Failure to respond
  • Open eyes without being awake

How Is Sleepwalking Diagnosed?

  • A doctor will ask questions to help determine if the child is experiencing other conditions that could be confused with sleepwalking, such as nightmares or panic attacks.
  • The child may need to be studied overnight in a sleep lab, including monitoring of the child’s brain activity.

How Is Sleepwalking Treated?

Treatment for sleepwalking is not a necessity, as most children outgrow this habit in their teen years. If the condition seems to be dangerous, however, you may consider treatment, which could include counseling, treatment of any underlying conditions that could be contributing to the issue, or use of medication such as an antidepressant.

What Can Parents Do to Help at Home?

If your child sleepwalks, make sure that they have enough time for an adequate amount of sleep, and maintain a consistent bedtime routine to help keep them from staying up too late and becoming overtired. Also, take steps to be sure that they’re in a safe environment at night; remove obstacles they could trip over at night, and don’t let them sleep on the top bunk of a bunk bed.


What Is Insomnia?

Typically, this condition is characterized by sleep disturbance or a lack of sleep. Children experiencing this disorder will have a hard time falling asleep or will wake up too early and still feel tired when awake.

What Are the Symptoms of Insomnia?

Some of the symptoms to look out for include:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Waking up too early
  • Difficulty paying attention or remembering
  • Trouble falling asleep at night
  • Waking up in the middle of the night
  • Increased clumsiness when handling things

What Causes Insomnia in Children?

This condition could stem from a range of causes, including:

  • Stress or feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Poor sleeping patterns and habits
  • Eating late at night
  • Caffeine
  • Medication
  • Mental health disorder

How Is Insomnia Diagnosed?

Doctors can check a child’s physical condition and medical history to make this diagnosis. A sleep study could also be necessary.

How Is Insomnia Treated?

The first and most crucial treatment for insomnia is improving the child’s sleep habits. Limit time spent in bed to sleeping, avoid caffeine, and establish a bedtime routine that does not include screen time. If efforts to improve the child’s sleep routine do not help, specialists may recommend behavioral therapy. Medications are typically not used for children but may be considered as a last resort.

What Can Parents Do to Help at Home?

Parents should speak with their child to see if anything stressful is going on in their life that could be keeping them up at night. Also, help the child to establish healthy sleep habits.

Sleep Apnea

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person’s airway is wholly or partially blocked while asleep.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea in Children

Symptoms of sleep apnea may include:

  • Snoring
  • Bed-wetting
  • Mouth-breathing
  • Restlessness during sleep

Causes of Sleep Apnea in Children

The leading cause of sleep apnea in children is enlarged adenoids or tonsils. Other causes may include a neuromuscular disorder or obesity.

How Is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?

A physician may review the child’s symptoms and medical history to diagnose sleep apnea. The doctor may also carry out oximetry, polysomnogram, or electrocardiogram tests to diagnose this disorder.

How Is Sleep Apnea Treated?

For most children with this condition, surgical removal of the tonsils and adenoids cures the problem. The doctor may also consider weight loss or the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine as treatments.

What Can Parents Do?

The best thing a parent can do for a child with sleep apnea is to get the child medical treatment and follow the doctor’s orders. If the child is obese, help them to lose weight, and if a CPAP machine is to be used, make sure the child uses it every night as instructed.

Sleep Paralysis

What Is Sleep Paralysis?

A person with sleep paralysis will wake up before the REM stage of sleep is finished to find that they are awake but cannot move.

Symptoms of Sleep Paralysis

This condition is characterized by an inability to move after waking up. Some people also experience a feeling of breathlessness or suffocating.

What Causes Sleep Paralysis?

This problem happens when a child wakes up before the REM stage of sleep ends; they wake up while they are still dreaming. The body naturally paralyzes itself during dreaming to keep people from physically acting out their dreams, but when someone wakes too soon, it can take a minute or two for this paralysis to wear off.

How Is Sleep Paralysis Diagnosed?

The condition is primarily diagnosed based on the child’s health history.

How Is Sleep Paralysis Treated?

There is no direct treatment for sleep paralysis on its own, but a doctor may check to see if there are any underlying causes that can be treated.

What can parents do to help?

Parents should make sure that their child is getting an adequate amount of sleep and avoiding caffeine before bedtime. If the problem persists, take the child to a sleep specialist to see if there are any underlying disorders contributing to the problem.

Establishing Healthy Sleep Patterns

As a parent, it’s your job to teach your child healthy habits to help prevent sleep disorders, and this process can begin soon after birth. Newborns will want to sleep most of the day, but parents should work to provide more stimulation during the day and less at night. As the baby grows older, start to introduce bedtime routines, including bringing the baby into a dark, quiet environment before bedtime. Swaddling may also help the child to sleep at this stage.

At around four months old, the baby may start to have separation anxiety. It’s important to establish a consistent ritual for putting the child to sleep and putting them back to sleep when they wake up at night. Avoid using feedings as a comfort ritual to get them back to sleep, as they’ll come to expect middle-of-the-night feedings every night. At age six months and beyond, keep reinforcing nighttime rituals such as bath time, story time, or snuggling with a favorite blanket or toy, and make sure that the child is well-fed and stimulated during the day to encourage them to wind down and sleep at night.

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    8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
  • Tuesday
    8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
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Rye Smiles for Life

10614 Warwick Avenue, Ste A, Fairfax, VA 22030

(703) 565-2503