Sleep Disorders in Children and Adolescents Are More Common Than You Think

Almost 70% of children experience some type of sleep problem. Children and adolescents need more sleep than adults to support proper growth and development — 9 to 10 hours a night.

When youngsters miss out on sleep, it poses a serious threat to their overall health. Get the facts on the prevalence of sleep disorders in children and adolescents and learn why you should consider requesting a sleep study if they aren’t getting quality Zzzs.


Sleepwalking is much more common in children than in adults. It’s estimated that as many as 40% of children sleepwalk. This typically occurs in children ages 3 to 7.

Because it occurs during their deep sleep cycle, children usually don’t recall the sleepwalking incident. Unless parents witness episodes firsthand, they may be unaware their child is sleepwalking.

Sleep apnea

More than 2 million children suffer from sleep apnea, a sleep disturbance involving long pauses between breathing. Most children with sleep apnea are between ages 2 and 8. Undiagnosed sleep apnea is a common cause of daytime sleepiness and can lead to poor performance in school.

Hints that your child may have sleep apnea include loud or excessive snoring, tossing and turning, mouth breathing, night sweats, and daytime sleepiness. Overweight children are at a higher risk of sleep apnea.

Night terrors

Most often occurring in children ages 3 to 12, night terrors aren’t your common nightmares. These episodes involve frequent, intense crying during deep sleep, usually beginning around 90 minutes after your child falls asleep. Your child may appear confused, disoriented, or completely unresponsive.

While most episodes usually last only a few minutes, some may last up to a half-hour. The day after a night terror, children often feel tired and have difficulty paying attention at school.

Trouble falling asleep

Most parents can attest to the problems they have getting their children settled down for sleep. However, some children experience chronic problems falling asleep or staying asleep at night, and it can have a profound effect on their functioning. An estimated 30%-40% of children and adolescents fail to get enough sleep.

Children who have trouble sleeping often experience irritability, daytime sleepiness, and grogginess during the day. A sleep study can help get to the bottom of things.


Narcolepsy is another sleep disorder that occurs in children, not just adults. It often starts in childhood.

Your central nervous system produces cells related to sleep called hypocretin. Children with narcolepsy have a loss of these cells. Similar to what occurs in Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune process is thought to share at least some responsibility.

Excessive daytime sleepiness is the most common symptom of narcolepsy. Children with narcolepsy often have an overwhelming urge to sleep when sitting down, reading, or watching television. These symptoms persist despite getting adequate sleep.

Children may also experience sleep attacks, in which they’re unable to resist the urge to sleep and may fall asleep at school. A thorough medical history and a comprehensive sleep study can help diagnose narcolepsy in children.

Daytime sleepiness

Excessive daytime sleepiness can lead to learning and behavioral problems in children and adolescents. It can affect their ability to sustain attention, learn new information, and control their behavior.

If teachers are reporting learning or behavioral issues at school, poor sleep may be to blame. This can happen even if tests show that your child is getting 9 to 10 hours of sleep. That’s because sleep quality is just as important as sleep duration. Parents who notice symptoms of poor sleep should consult a sleep specialist.

Getting enough quality sleep is crucial for your childhood development. If you need a sleep specialist, visit the team at ApneCare Sleep Lab. We have offices in Mesa, Arizona, and Bakersfield, California. Call your nearest office to schedule an appointment, or book one online today.

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