Common sleep problems in young children

Parentree-editors 2008-08-17 02:06:27

Sleep is an essential part of a young child's health.  In this article, we tell you what are some of the common sleep problems in young Indian children, less than 10 years of age. (preschoolers, little kids, and big kids, pre-adolescents).

Bed wetting

Many children wet their bed involuntarily. This is very common in children under 5 years and is not a cause for concern. Children usually outgrow it. If it continues on a frequent basis, above the age of 7, you may need to take the child to a doctor. Treatments are available to help with the problem and a doctor can diagnose if the problem is a symptom for some other issue.

Bedwetting is usually not a result of the child being too lazy to get up and go to the bathroom.  So there is no point in punishing him. 

You can help your child by cutting down any liquids she drinks just before bedtime. Try to get her to consume them earlier.

In a study conducted in Chandigarh, India for children between 3 - 10 years, 18% of parents reported this problem in their children.1

Sleep talking

Children often talk clearly in their sleep. This typically tends to be harmless. Sometimes, it maybe triggered by some altercation or minor stress the child is undergoing. Some tender, loving care is all it needs. The parent sleeping next to the child can hug the child during this and it may stop.

In a study conducted in Chandigarh, India for children between 3 - 10 years, 15% of parents reported this problem in their children.1

Grinding teeth or bruxism

Children in their sleep can clench and grind their teeth.  This could be due to stress, or misalignment of teeth, or due to some other pain like a earache.

This not harmful to children but can be very loud and may keep others awake. Children usually outgrow this by 10 to 12 years of age. Parents should mention this to the dentist during regular visits so extra care maybe taken to check for any effects due to it.

In a study conducted in Chandigarh, India for children between 3 - 10 years, 12% of parents reported this problem in their children.1

Nightmares

Nightmares are bad dreams that frighten children. When having a nightmare, children may shout, or cry or move a lot and wake up. Usually the comforting hug of a parent can easily interrupt a nightmare and calm the child down.

Nightmares occur due to active imaginations and new experiences which may have been scary.  The frequency reduces as the child becomes older but even healthy adults have nightmares once in a while.

Parents can help, by ensuring that young children do not watch violent television shows. However, nightmares are common and all the child needs is love, affection and warmth from parents.

If nightmares are triggered by any particular fear, see our article on how to tackle fears in little children

In a study conducted in Chandigarh, India for children between 3 - 10 years, 7% of parents reported this problem in their children.1

Snoring

Snoring is caused when there is a partial block of the air passage in the body, resulting in a vibration which becomes the snoring sound. A little bit of snoring is normal in children but loud, persistent snoring and pauses/interruptions in breathing may be a sign of sleep apnea. Consult a paediatrician quickly, if you suspect sleep apnea.

Light snoring maybe due to nasal blocks, tonsils, adenoids and can be diagnosed by your paediatrician.

In a study conducted in Chandigarh, India for children between 3 - 10 years, 6% of parents reported this problem in their children.1

Sleep terrors

Sleep terrors are much more severe episodes than nightmares. Usually the child shouts out things that are unintelligible, gets up screaming and often sweating, and though their eyes are open they may in reality be in deep sleep.

Often the child cannot recall these, while nightmares can be recalled. Usually this is also triggered by unnamed fears and experiences. Reassurance and affection that increase the child's confidence can help reduce this problem.  The frequency decreases with age but may occur infrequently even in adults.

In a study conducted in Chandigarh, India for children between 3 - 10 years, 3% of parents reported this problem in their children.1

Sleep walking

Sleep walking is an episode where the child gets up from bed and walks around. The child is not awake during this walking. Children usually outgrow this by 10 -12 years. The bigger concern is the possibility of the child getting hurt as he walks around.

In India, the occurrence of this is very low (2%)1 . It maybe because most children sleep with their parents and any attempt by the child to leave the bed is quickly sensed by the parent.

Restless legs syndrome

Some children have an irresistible urge to move their legs because they feel something unpleasant, like tingling, or aching or pulling in their legs.  This often disturbs their sleep and the sleep of those around them. The causes are not clear. It seems to be a family trait and maybe connected with iron deficiency2.

Consult with your paediatrician if you notice this in your child.

References

1. Bhavneet Bharti, Prahbhjot Malhi and Sapna Kashyap, "Patterns and Problems of Sleep in School Going Children", Indian Pediatrics 2006; 43:35-38

2. Murali Maheswaran and Clete A. Kushida, "Restless Legs Syndrome in Children", MedGenMed. 2006; 8(2): 79


 

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