Sleep disorders in children

Infants, toddlers, and children of all ages, teens, and even adolescent children can suffer from a wide range of sleep disorders. Detection of the type of sleep disorder and knowing the underlying cause are very important for providing the best treatment. Let us try to understand different types of sleep disorders in children.

Types of Sleep Disorders in Children

Behavioral Patterns and Mental Health

Children who develop certain mental health issues such as behavioral disorders, mood disorders, stress-related disorders, anxiety, migraine, and depression, and other mental health issues such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), autism spectrum disorder, and other behavioral disorders often have sleep disorders (insomnia). In some cases, medicines can also interfere with the sleep of children and make them prone to insomnia

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition wherein a child snores or gasps for air during sleep. It happens due to disturbances in breathing patterns. In other words, there is an obstruction in the passage of oxygen during sleep. Owing to this obstruction, the child’s lungs work hard for getting oxygen in. A child who develops this condition remains awake frequently throughout the night gasping for air. This is often the most common type of problem due to enlarged adenoids or tonsils. Some children develop this problem due to structural anomalies of the head or face, palate, or cleft lip. Sleep apnea can also occur in children with muscular dystrophy, and neuromuscular disorders due to weakened muscles involved in breathing.

Movement Disorders

Movement disorders are neurological conditions in children. They cause uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an overwhelming urge to move them. Periodic limb movement disorders and restless leg syndrome are common movement disorders in children. A child who develops these disorders tends to remain awake during the night due to worsening symptoms. These two movement disorders frequently occur together.


Children experience unpleasant or undesirable things during sleep. Such experiences or physical events are called Parasomnias. These events are common in young children when they are in deep sleep. Children experience undesirable events during sleep when they are about to fall asleep, during REM sleep, or after nonrapid eye movement sleep.

Children who develop this condition exhibit, sleep terrors, remain awake in a confused state during sleep; and sleepwalk. They sometimes wake up suddenly from non-REM sleep in the middle of the night and become frightened. Some children may have vivid nightmares during REM sleep. Children sometimes cannot move their heads, body, or limbs during a state between wakefulness and sleep. Some children have hallucinations when they begin to wake up from sleep.


It is a condition associated with excessive daytime sleepiness. The condition can develop in a child or adolescent. For instance, narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that causes these symptoms: daytime sleeping, hallucinations, and temporary loss of muscle control when a child wakes up or falls asleep.

Sleep apnea or delayed sleep phase syndrome can also disrupt sleep and thus cause hypersomnia. Daytime sleepiness can also be a sign of epilepsy, concussion, and other medical conditions and neurological disorders as well. A diligent diagnostic approach is indispensable for an accurate diagnosis for the detection of the underlying cause and for an apt treatment for hypersomnia in children.

Bottom Line

At Dr. Habib’s Foster CDC, Dr. Habib Pathan deals with all types of pediatric sleep disorders. He identifies an accurate cause of the type of sleep disorder that occurs during the early stages of a child’s development. Dr. Habib Pathan has expertise in diagnosing sleep disorders during the early stages of infancy, childhood, teenage, and adolescence years. In some children, certain types of sleep disorders have been reported to be associated with certain behaviors, whereas certain medical conditions or neurological conditions can cause other disorders. Therefore, parents can seek Dr. Habib’s appointment when they notice any problem associated with their child’s sleep, behavior, and sleep routine and pattern.

Pediatric Sleep Disorders