Sleep disorders

How to beat insomnia: chronic persistence

Pathological changes in sleep in children occur at any age – from infancy to puberty. Sleep disorders or illnesses can manifest as insomnia, frequent awakenings, nightmares, unusual sleep movements, snoring, and even respiratory arrest.

Causes of sleep disorders in children

Poor sleep in infants can be due to:

  • physiological reason – normally the newborn falls asleep often, but does not sleep for long;
  • teething;
  • difficulty breathing – due to edema or accumulation of secretions in the narrow nasal passages;
  • uncomfortable conditions (noise, inappropriate temperature, uncomfortable baby’s posture);
  • colic;
  • hunger;
  • allergic or diaper dermatitis;
  • pain resulting from other diseases.

In older children, other causes of sleep disorders predominate:

  • adenoids (enlargement of the nasopharyngeal tonsil) are the most common culprits for breathing and sleep problems;
  • hypertrophy of other pharyngeal tonsils;
  • obesity;
  • deformation of the bones of the facial part of the skull;
  • allergic rhinitis;
  • inflammatory processes of the nasopharynx;
  • psychological reasons.


Bruxism or gnashing of teeth during sleep occurs in half of children. Especially often bruxism is affected during periods of eruption of deciduous or permanent molars. Such small patients are often deficient in B vitamins, as well as calcium and magnesium. Often teeth grinding begins after a child’s stress. 

Consultation with a specialist is not required if this symptom occurs at an early age, lasts less than 10 seconds and is not accompanied by other complaints – this problem goes away on its own by 5-6 years. But, if, in addition to the squeak, the child has discomfort in the facial muscles, as well as headache and toothache, you should immediately contact a pediatric dentist and somnologist.

Usually, in such cases, dentists find damage to the tooth enamel, caries, and malocclusion. The doctor can recommend special mouth guards to protect the teeth, as well as prescribe a splint therapy or a technique for aligning dental occlusion.

The frequency and duration of spasms of the masticatory muscles is determined by the somnologist, based on the data of polysomnography – a detailed study of the patient’s sleep.

Snoring and sleep apnea

Snoring occurs in 5-10% of children. Most often, children snore between the ages of 2 and 8 years.

The most common causes of snoring in children are:

  • adenoids;
  • hypertrophy of the tonsils;
  • overweight;
  • difficulty in nasal breathing (as a result of nasal septum abnormalities or inflammatory diseases);
  • allergic processes in the nasopharynx;
  • laryngospasm;
  • genetic diseases associated with obesity or muscle weakness (for example, with Down syndrome);
  • macroglossia – an increase in the tongue (with hypothyroidism ) or retraction of the tongue (for example, with Pierre Robin’s syndrome);
  • anomalies in the structure of the skull (“cleft lip”, sloping chin or “bird’s face”, formed as a result of prolonged obstruction);
  • SARS is the cause of short snoring, which quickly disappears after recovery. If, on the contrary, snoring appeared after a previous infection, then it is possible that the child has developed chronic tonsillitis or enlarged adenoids.

Just like adults, children can suffer from complicated and uncomplicated snoring.

With uncomplicated snoring, the tissues of the pharynx vibrate without restricting the air flow. With complicated snoring, the pharyngeal walls close completely, stopping the baby’s breathing. Such episodes of cessation of breathing are called sleep apnea and indicate the development of OSAS – obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. This disease is life threatening and is a common cause of sudden death in infants, especially premature babies.

With apnea, in addition to snoring, parents often notice that the child sleeps restlessly, assuming unusual postures, sweats a lot during sleep, sometimes enuresis and developmental delay appear. In older children, academic performance also declines, attention is impaired, enuresis and morning headaches appear.

Depending on the cause, doctors recommend the following treatments for snoring:

  • Operational – with adenoids and severe tonsil hypertrophy.
  • Nasal products (corticosteroid sprays, moisturizers and emollients) – for allergic rhinitis.
  • Cleansing the nose with cotton filaments or rinsing – for infants who do not have ENT pathology , and snoring is due to the narrowness of the nasal passages.
  • For OSAS, special intraoral devices, CPAP therapy and other methods are used.

To find out the causes and treatment of snoring, you need to contact the child with specialists – an ENT doctor and a somnologist.


It is believed that sleepwalking and sleepwalking occurs in 5% of children, but almost always goes away on its own. Sleepwalking in children is generally harmless. The only thing that parents should do is to ensure the safety of the child while walking in sleep, remove sharp objects, and keep windows and doors closed. Usually impressionable and vulnerable children are susceptible to sleepwalking. Therefore, it is advisable to exclude everything that excites the nervous system before going to bed: outdoor games, watching movies and listening to loud music, reading fiction.

If episodes of sleepwalking become frequent and prolonged, it is worth contacting a specialist to exclude neurological diseases and prescribe treatment. 


In infants, insomnia is usually caused by colic. They are almost inevitable, since they appear as a result of transient functional immaturity of the digestive system. You can improve your child’s sleep with the help of products based on simethicone and dill water. Likewise, nursing mothers should monitor their own diet, excluding gas-forming products, especially milk and carbonated drinks.

The second cause of sleep disturbance in young children is teething. Dental gels based on benzocaine , special teethers and gum massage will be useful here .

Older children, especially schoolchildren, cannot sleep as a result of nervous tension. It can be stressful due to academic performance, difficult socialization, or family discord. The best way to help a child is to find out the cause and fix it. If you have not been able to cope with childhood experiences on your own, you should contact a certified child psychologist.

Herbal preparations, for example, based on valerian, are sometimes recommended as auxiliary measures.


Almost all young children have frightening dreams. If they occur infrequently, then this is not a cause for concern. Despite the violent external manifestations (the child may wake up screaming and crying, trying to run), night fears do not harm health. Parents just need to calm the child down, convince him of safety and put him back to bed.

But if night horrors visit the child often, then it is better to seek help from a doctor.

Provide healthy sleep for your child

The most important thing that parents should know is that the listed serious symptoms seen in children are an indication for an urgent appeal to a qualified specialist. Sleep disorders in children, as a rule, are reversible, which means they are completely curable with timely treatment.

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