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Signs of Sleep Problems in Children: What is Excessive Daytime Sleepiness?

Signs of Sleep Problems in Children: What is Excessive Daytime Sleepiness?

We all know that a good, restful sleep is necessary for a healthy mind and body. This applies especially for children, who need a good 2-3 hours more sleep every night than do adults. For your children to get this much-needed sleep, you will need to be on alert for signs of sleep disorders in children.

Dealing Sleep Problems in Children - Quick Tips for Parents

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness, or EDS, is one of the most common signs of a sleep problem in children. While it’s perfectly normal for children to feel overly tired every once in awhile, regular daytime drowsiness is not good. It either means that your child is not getting to bed at a reasonable time, or they are having problems staying asleep at night.

EDS can manifest in different ways:

  • Your child appears sleepy of “dragging” throughout the day
  • Your child naps during the day when most kids their age do not
  • Your child has trouble waking up in the morning
  • Your child seems grumpy or “out of sorts”
  • Teachers and friends mention your child’s lack of energy
  • Your child complains about being tired

Any one or more of these signs, if the occur over time, means that your child is experiencing EDS and not just “having a rough day.”

6 Sleep Disorders in Children that Cause EDS

Children naturally sleep well, compared to adults. But there are many things that can potentially disrupt a child’s sleep and cause EDS:

1. Childhood Insomnia

Children can have insomnia, just as adults do. Insomnia is a disruption of the sleep cycle. This makes it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, wake up refreshed, or possibly all three. In children, insomnia could be caused by anxiety, physical pain, or in rare cases a neurological disorder.

If you suspect your child has insomnia, try to figure out what might be causing them pain or anxiety. Are they nervous about an upcoming trip? A big homework project? Moving? Friends problems? Or are they hurting and just not telling you about it? If you cannot rule out anxiety or physical pain, you may want to speak with your child’s doctor about their insomnia.

2. Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea occurs when your child's breathing slows, pauses, or stops during sleep. While this is much more common in adults, children can experience it - especially when something is blocking the upper airways. This can be something in their body, like a growth or tumor, or a foreign object like a crayon or toy which has become lodged in the airway.

Other signs of sleep apnea in children can include headaches, a “stuffy” feeling, excessive drooling during sleep, snoring, and unusual sleeping positions. If you suspect sleep apnea, it is best to have a doctor examine your child to confirm if there are any obstructions and recommend treatment.

3. Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome has only been recognized in recent years as medical problem. It is the strong urge to move one’s legs, especially when resting or sleeping. It can start as discomfort or pain, but eventually leads to rubbing, shaking, or darting legs in ways that are barely controllable.

While this syndrome affects older adults more than any other group, it is not unheard of in children. Sometimes it can be treated with vitamin intake and massage, and sometimes prescription drugs are needed. If restless leg syndrome lasts for some time, you will also want your doctor to rule out other problems, such as Parkinson’s disease.

4. Nightmares

Every person experiences nightmares at some point in childhood. Nightmares are simply dreams that turn scary. Like other dreams, they occur during REM sleep; but, if too scary, they can wake a child from sleep prematurely, and prevent you child from getting back to sleep.

Though experiencing nightmares is, in some sense, normal, you can cut down on the frequency of nightmares by sticking with a good bedtime routine and avoiding scary TV shows, movies, and videos games during the hours leading up to bedtime. (In fact, the more you can avoid these, the better.) Usually, nightmares start disappearing around age 10, when children have much better mental coping mechanisms.

5. Night Terrors

Nightmares differ from night terrors, however. Nightmares happen during REM sleep, and children often wake up remembering the content of their bad dream. Night terrors, on the other hand, happen much earlier in sleep. Children will often scream and might even sit up or struggle - but then they go right back to sleep. Children rarely remember the night terrors at all, but any parents witnessing them surely do.

The good news is that most night terrors go away by the time a child becomes a teenager. The bad news is that there is no “cure” or method for making them go away before then. The best thing to do is to allow your child extra time for sleep. If you can, have the child sleep away from other children so that their night terrors do not disturb their rest. Comfort your child when the night terror happens, but do not attempt to wake them, as this can further disturb their sleep.

Night terrors are sometimes associated with sleepwalking, so be on the lookout for this as well.

6. Bedwetting

Bedwetting  what doctors call “enuresis” — is a common problem for children under the age of five, especially ones that are not yet fully potty trained. Bedwetting isn't considered a sleep disorder unless your child is older than five is having at least two episodes a week.

Sometimes bedwetting has a physical cause, such as a weak bladder or infection. Sometimes the cause is more mental: anxiety and emotional distress can cause bouts of bedwetting in children. And, sometimes, bedwetting can be a sign of another underlying problem, such as a developmental problem, neurological disorder, or sleep apnea (see above). If your child meets the criteria above (over the age of five and wetting twice a week or more), it’s best to see a doctor for the proper diagnosis.

What You Can Do About These Sleep Problems

Just as with adults, there are all sorts of reasons why children don't sleep well. The first step, then, is that you are giving your child every advantage. This means:

  • Setting reasonable bedtime hours
  • Allowing enough sleep for your child’s age
  • Giving your child a warm and comfortable bed, with a proper mattress
  • Following a consistent bedtime routine
  • Shutting down screens at least an hour before bedtime routine
  • Ensuring a proper diet, with all needed nutrients
  • Avoiding things known to disrupt sleep: Eating before bed, scary stories, excessive screen time, and so on.

In most cases, if you follow these steps, your child’s sleep problem will resolve itself fairly quickly. If not, then it may be time to visit your child’s doctor to see if there is a more serious problem preventing your child from sleeping.

Start with Banner Mattress

At Banner Mattress, we understand the unique sleep needs of children during their development and growth. We have many products to help with their comfort and protection from the perfect mattress, to the right pillow and mattress protector. If you are thinking about a new mattress for your child, we would be happy to help you and your child find the best mattress for your comfort and budget. Explore our online shop, or visit a location nearest you to learn why we are the best in the business.

Want to get the whole story on sleep and the way it affects our bodies, mind, and spirit?

Download our eBook: Your Mattress Buying Guide. Use it to discover your sleep needs and simplify the mattress buying process - the Banner Way.