Sleep and Sleep Disorders in Children and Teenagers

  • Medical Author:
    John Mersch, MD, FAAP

    Dr. Mersch received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego, and prior to entering the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, was a graduate student (attaining PhD candidate status) in Experimental Pathology at USC. He attended internship and residency at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

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Quick GuideChildren's Health: Top Reasons Your Child Can't Sleep

Children's Health: Top Reasons Your Child Can't Sleep

Narcolepsy symptoms in children

Narcolepsy is more common in adults than children. It has been defined as "a chronic sleep disorder characterized by overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep. Narcolepsy is a chronic condition for which there is no cure." Research has shown that narcolepsy is not a type of seizure, fainting episode, or psychological illness. Symptoms of narcolepsy include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness: affected individuals have an uncontrollable need to sleep during the day;
  • Sudden loss of muscle tone: this may range from slurred speech to total collapse of all voluntary muscles. Emotional stimulation (often positive by nature, for example, laughter) may trigger such an attack;
  • Sleep paralysis: Characterized by a temporary (1-2 minutes) period of the inability to speak or move when falling asleep or waking;
  • Vivid or frightening hallucinations which occur most commonly during REM (dreaming) sleep.

Sleepwalking symptoms in children

The onset of sleepwalking (somnambulism) typically presents in prepubertal children most frequently at age 11 to 12, and occurs more often in boys than girls. The overall incidence of sleepwalking is approximately 18%. Like night terrors, the individual is difficult to arouse during the event and does not remember the experience. Sleepwalking most commonly occurs during the first third of the sleep cycle. Some sleepwalkers may also mumble during sleepwalking episodes and occasionally obscene words may be uttered. Medications are rarely necessary to manage sleepwalking episodes. Ensuring a safe environment (protection against falls or walking out of the house) and maintenance of good sleep habits (avoiding sleep deprivation) are important considerations to prevent sleepwalking.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/18/2015

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