Healthy sleep for kids: Recognizing and preventing sleep disorders

We usually associate conditions like sleep apnea and insomnia with adults, but they can keep little ones up at night, too. Kids can also suffer from restless legs syndrome, another sleep problem usually associated with middle-aged patients.

Sleep disorders can lead to lower grades in school and behavioral problems. Dr. Christopher Allen, a pediatric neurologist and the head of the Covenant HealthCare Pediatric Sleep Program, says, “A lot of kids have symptoms that will be reflective of ADHD…unfortunately, it’s because of sleep deprivation, and it’s usually because of obstructive sleep apnea.”

child awake in bed

Could your child have obstructive sleep apnea?

Some signs to watch for:

  • Snoring or disordered breathing
  • Poor academic performance
  • Daytime hyperactivity or attention deficit
  • Delayed mental development
  • Impaired physical growth
  • Hypertension or cardiovascular problems
  • Narcolepsy

If your child exhibits these symptoms, your doctor may prescribe an overnight sleep study at the Covenant Sleep Center to more accurately diagnose their sleep problem.

Restless legs syndrome is a neurological disorder that can also lead to sleep deprivation in both adults and children. “It’s hard for kids to explain how it feels, but usually if they’re saying that their legs are hurting, or if you notice that they’re kicking their legs in sleep, that’s a big reason to have that evaluated,” says Dr. Allen.

Healthy sleep habits for your kids

Kids need more sleep than adults, even into their teen years (see this chart of recommended sleep times to see if your child is getting enough).

To help kids develop healthy sleep patterns, try these tips:

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule—bedtime and wake-up time should be about the same each day (even on weekends)
  • Make sure kids exercise daily
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks and foods (like chocolate)
  • Follow the same bedtime ritual each night (brush teeth, go to the bathroom, etc.)
  • Avoid electronics like video games, TV and smartphones in the hour before bed—the blue light from electronics can interfere with sleep

If you think your child may have a sleep disorder, the Covenant Pediatric Sleep Program can help. For a referral to Dr. Allen, please call 989.272.0540

You can also see Dr. Allen discuss pediatric sleep disorders on WNEM TV’s Medical Moments.

Posted Date: 5/21/2019

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