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Like adults, children also suffer from a variety of sleep disorders. However, the manifestation and diagnostic methods are often somewhat different. Common children's sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, snoring, somnia disorders, and daytime sleepiness, are often difficult to diagnose because of the inability of a child to communicate and report symptoms. Therefore, the diagnosis and treatment of children require more specialized techniques.

Habitual snoring (snoring more than three nights per week) should prompt further investigation. Snoring itself is caused by turbulence of the air and usually indicates a degree of narrowing and resistance to the air flow. It can be caused by nasal congestion and elongation of tonsils and adenoids. This resistance to air flow, if severe enough, can cause poor quality of sleep, restless or fragmented sleep and at times urination at night.

Parasomnias such as sleep walking and night terrors are common in children. However, if the parasomnia begins or continues beyond age 10, happens frequently, or can pose a risk of injury (from falling while sleep walking, for example) then they constitute a pathology, which needs to be evaluated and treated. Occasionally, sleep walkingcan be a manifestation of a seizure disorder such as psychomotor seizure.

When a child suffers from a sleep disorder, often they have a difficult time waking up since the sleep has been of poor quality. This may lead to lack of attention and hyperactivity similar to Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), as well as poor school performance and academic achievement. Children may also exhibit aggressive or oppositional behavior. In addition to problems with school performance and behavior, children with sleep disorders may suffer from poor health, delayed growth, or obesity. Children often exhibit these signs instead of sleepiness, particularly since a child's sleepiness can result in napping in seemingly normal situations, such as while riding in a car.

Sleep Apnea in Children

Sleep apnea in children can be seen from infant to adolescence. Contrary to common perception, sleep apnea in children is quite common. The signs and symptoms include snoring, irregular breathing patterns while sleeping (breathing fast and then slow), restless sleep, nightmares, frequent awakenings, and bed-wetting.

Sleep apnea in children is often associated with frequent sore throat, usually caused by an upper respiratory infection (URI). Nasal, sinus, or ear problems, mouth breathing, and enlarged tonsils or thyroids may also be encountered.