- Posted by spectrum
- On November 28, 2017
Types of Sleep Disorders
Having a child who suffers from night terrors can be extremely frightening – but only for the unlucky parents because, despite appearances, your child won’t remember the episode when he wakes up the next morning. Night terrors, (also known as confusional arousal) occur in five to 15 percent of children between the ages of four and six, after which age they tend to out-grow them. Try not to be concerned if your child has night terrors – they tend to run in families and they don’t mean there are any neurological problems. Night terrors are just part of the normal range of development of deep sleep patterns in young children.
Night terrors are the partial awakening from a state of deep non-REM (non-dream) sleep that occurs in the first few hours of sleep. While their mind remains asleep, your child’s body awakens – their eyes may be open and their face fully expressive – and they will give the impression that they are totally awake. They will cry and be generally distressed, but won’t respond to your efforts to comfort them. Monitor their movement so that they don’t harm themselves – their eyes won’t be registering what they ‘see’. Night terrors can last up to 40 minutes, after which time she’ll relax and fall quickly back into a deep sleep. Don’t try to wake your child during a night terror to comfort her because you’ll make her very disoriented and confused. Left alone, she will have no recollection of the episode in the morning and won’t even think that she had a bad dream.
Night Terrors vs Nightmares
Night terrors are quite different from nightmares. Night terrors happen during the first few hours of sleep when your child is sleeping very deeply, while nightmares tend to happen in the second half of the night during phases of REM sleep. A child who has had a nightmare will usually remember, if not the specifics of the dream, that she was frightened by her dream. If her nightmare wakes her in the night then she may need you to comfort her so that she can fall back asleep.
How can I help my child with night terrors?
Overtired children are more prone to night terrors so make sure that your child is getting enough sleep. Try gently waking them shortly before a night terror would normally begin. This will change their sleeping pattern and possibly avoid a night terror. Try taking them outside. The change in temperature may cause them to move into a lighter sleep. Avoid waking them during a night terror. They will only be confused and disorientated, and may take longer to settle. Once their thrashing begins to subside, settle them back into bed and they should quickly return to a deep sleep. If you think they might hurt themselves, don’t try to restrain them but stay close by to guide them away from any possible hazards. Don’t discuss your child’s night terrors with them the next day. As they will have no recollection of the episode, you could embarrass them or make them anxious about going to bed.
Sleep apnoea is a potentially serious sleep disorder caused by abnormal pauses in breathing during asleep. There are two types of sleep apnoea:
• Central apnoea – this occurs when there are problems in the mechanisms in the brain that control breathing.
• Obstructive sleep apnoea – this occurs when the airway passage is restricted.
Signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea
Because OSA can disrupt good sleep patterns, and therefore cause behaviour problems during the day, sometimes the symptoms of OSA can be confused with conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) but with close monitoring, the symptoms of Obstructive sleep apnoea become easy to identify. The most common symptoms are:
• Night time symptoms:
• Breathing through the mouth
• Pauses in breathing
• Frequent urination at night or bedwetting
• Daytime symptoms:
• Excessive sleepiness
• Learning problems
• Behavioural issues including problems paying attention, being aggressive and hyperactive
• Failure to thrive
There is a higher prevalence of sleep problems in ASD community also higher than other developmental disabilities. Approximately 50-80% of children will experience sleep problems.
* See our blog “Helping Children Sleep”. for treatment options!