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The Be Well Podcast: Sleep Disorders in Children

Listen in or read the partial transcript below as Allan Damian, MD discusses the most common sleep disorders in children, symptoms, the treatment options that are available and more.

Disclaimer: This podcast is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as personalized medical advice. 

Joey Wahler (Host): This podcast is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as personalized medical advice. 

It's something that can adversely impact a child's health or quality of life. So we're discussing pediatric sleep disorders. Our guest, Dr. Allan Damian, practices Sleep Medicine at Skagit Regional Health.

Allan Damian, MD: Hi there, thanks for having me. Dr. Allan Damian, Sleep Medicine at Skagit Regional Health

Joey Wahler (Host): Great to have you aboard. So first, just how common are sleep problems for children and at what age can they first develop?

Allan Damian, MD: Well, it probably is much more common than anybody thinks, including primary care physicians or pediatricians, mainly because there is a kind of under diagnosis of sleep disorders. I do have some numbers for you and this is taken from the ICSD 3 TR, that's the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, 3rd Edition, from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Insomnia, about 10 to 30 percent of children, and surprisingly, this can occur as young as 6 months of age. And it's much more common in adolescent girls compared to adolescent boys. And as far as sleep apnea, it can occur in up to 3 percent of all children, but snoring by itself can occur up to 10 percent of children.

And the other disorder is restless legs, which can occur in up to 4% of the population. So these are just some examples of some sleep disorders in children, which we see pretty common.

Joey Wahler (Host): So, when you say insomnia, and it seems like that's a fairly significant percentage of young kids that suffer from that. What constitutes insomnia, technically speaking?

Allan Damian, MD: So it's a very, very simple technical definition. So it's either the inability to initiate sleep or inability to maintain sleep or both, which is not due to any other sleep disorder. So that's fairly common. And what's very key to note here is that what contributes to the high number of children with insomnia is the fact that circadian rhythm disorders, which is a different type of disorder is often mistaken for insomnia. They just have a preference for sleeping much later in the 24-hour cycle. And so those are mistaken for insomnia.

Joey Wahler (Host): So, in other words, meaning that they might catch up on sleep when they nap later on?

Allan Damian, MD: Well, napping is actually something that may be a signal of something going not quite right, at night. Because napping is only for kids below six years of age. So, if they're not sleeping correctly, they will nap. And that points to an abnormal, or disrupted sleep pattern.

Joey Wahler (Host): Gotcha. And then you also mentioned something called restless legs. What is that?

Allan Damian, MD: So this is often mistaken as growing pains. I mean, there is a legitimate condition as growing pains, but, restless legs are frequently seen in older patients. And it's a kind of like abnormal sensation on the legs almost like bugs are crawling and you have to move your legs to get rid of those sensations.

It can happen in kids and they're just not able to verbalize it and it frequently happens, if there is a history of anemia which we often see in a lot of kids.

To listen to the podcast or read the full transcript, visit here.