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Sleep disorder in children

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Sleep is essential and crucial for the brain to function normally. The human body is programmed to restore the mind and body by sleeping each night. Disturbed sleep or loss of sleep can cause altered mood, memory, impaired cognition, impaired immunity, and abnormal hormonal rhythm. Healthy sleep consists of 4-5 cycles of quiet sleep (N-REM sleep or non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep) alternating with paradoxical sleep (REM sleep). The sleep-wake cycle is controlled by the circadian process, i.e. the internal biological clock and the sleep-wake homeostatic or recovery process. These two factors explain the reason why we stay awake during the day and sleep at night. Infants and toddlers sleep longer than young children and adults. They spend most of their time sleeping. Toddlers need around 12 hours of sleep, children aged three to eight need 10-12 hours of sleep, and teenagers need 8-9 hours while most adults sleep for between 7 and 8 hours a night. A good night’s sleep is when you fall asleep quickly; there is no disturbance, and feel refreshed in the morning. Regularly having difficulty in falling asleep or disturbed sleeping patterns through the night is not normal for healthy people of any age. Adults and teenagers have a deep sleep while young children and older people sleep lightly. Transversely, sleep is a very well-maintained behavior among all animals.

Humans may writhe from various sleep disorders, including:

  • Dyssomnias – It means disorders of sleep having difficulty in sleep, excessive sleep, or remaining asleep such as insomnia, hypersomnia, narcolepsy, limit-setting sleep disorder, insufficient sleep syndrome, snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA);
  • Parasomnias – It means abnormal movements, activities, perception, and emotion while sleeping to awakening, such as sleepwalking, nightmares, night terrors, and REM behavior disorder like head banging and rocking;
  • Bruxism- Excessive grinding and clenching of teeth and jaw while asleep; and
  • Circadian rhythm sleep disorders – It is dysfunction or malalignment in normal biological clock due to disturbed sleep pattern. It is usually seen in the family of faulty habits with an upset sleep-wake pattern.

Behavioral sleep problems include problems in falling asleep during the night, frequent waking up at night, early morning waking feeling unrefreshed or a combination of these. Following are some of the causative factors:

  • Limit-setting type – parents have problems setting limits during bedtime. Watching television, playing games, eating late suppers.
  • Delayed sleep phase – the child goes to bed late and sleeps in all through the morning lest roused by their parents.
  • Anxiety-related insomnia – the child takes 30 minutes or more to fall asleep, keeps thinking, distressing about something as they do so.
  • Physiological insomnia – the child takes 30 minutes or more to fall asleep, but there is no reason for worrying or coming in and out of their room.

Children with disturbed sleep may be due to any reason or experience like abnormal growth, poor development, bedwetting, obesity or decreased body weight, behavioral issues and learning problems, sleepiness in daytime, hyperactivity or ADHD. Among children, a lack of sleep or disturbed sleep may cause behavior problems, mood problems, poor memory, poor concentration, and learning problems, performance hitches, slower reaction and brain fag, overeating, injuries, and accidents.

Signs of disturbed sleep among children:

  • Snoring
  • Breathing pauses while asleep
  • Difficulty in falling asleep
  • Problems with sleeping through the night
  • Struggle to stay awake during the day
  • Unexplained lethargy with decreased performance
  • Sleepwalking or nightmare

Tips for improving disturbed sleep in children:

  • Establish a fixed time for bed each night and do not diverge from it. Similarly, waking time should be constant.
  • Create a monotonous comforting bedtime mundane, such as a warm bath or reading a story.
  • Avoid any food or drink with caffeine within less than six hours before sleep.
  • Make sure the room temperature is comfortable and no bright light enters the room, the room is comfortably dark. The noise level in the house should be low.
  • Be certain that the child’s room is safe to protect them against any injury at night.
  • Avoid large meals close to bedtime.
  • Avoid exciting activities and playtime during sleeping hours.
  • All gadgets should be turned off at least 2 hours before sleep. There should be no television, computer, mobile phone, radio, or music playing during bedtime.
  • If the child has night terrors/ nightmares, it’s important to assure them the episodes are not harmful.

Talk to your child’s physician if these tips don’t help or if you need further supervision. Homeopathic and biochemic medicines like Kindival and Kali phosphoricum 6X are useful remedial measures for sleeps disorders in children.