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Sleep Problems in Children and Teens

Sleep difficulties in toddlers through the teenage years is an all-too-common problem in this day of 24/7/365 news cycles, electronic devices, gaming and social media.

Many parents struggle with sleeping difficulties in their children, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Sleep and the development of your child go hand-in-hand.

These sleep difficulties can impact not just the child’s behavior and ability to learn, but their siblings’ sleep and schooling, as well as the entire family’s joy for life, the parents’ ability to function at work and the parents’ marriage.

A tired child, struggling with sleep difficulties

What are Sleep Disorders in Children?

Children can start with sleep difficulties during infancy, progress to the toddler and preschool years and then extend on into the school age and teenage years – and later into adulthood.

While sleep disorders may progress or continue and even remit over time, they always are problematic, impacting the child's behavioral regulation at home, in school and even in sports and social situations.

While sleep disorders can look different in every child, they always result in difficulty waking in the morning – being tired, irritable, late to get ready, argumentative, short tempered - in short, being sleepy!

Regardless of the cause, winding down before bed, struggles with staying asleep, co sleeping with parents, waking up in the middle of the night or even early morning waking (4-5 am), the sleep problems need to be addressed to allow your child to succeed in school, at home and with friends.

Childhood Sleep Disorder Causes

Sleeping disorders in kids can occur for a wide variety of reasons. Some of which commonly include behavioral disorders and certainly in those with developmental disabilities like Autism.

Childhood insomnia is very prevalent and affects roughly 1 in 4 children.

How severe can inadequate restorative sleep impact a child – more than 25% of children seen by Dr Moncino with developmental concerns simply have inadequate sleep as the cause of the delays.

In children and teens with ADD/ADHD, nearly half have sleep problems, while 75%-90% of children with ASD have sleep problems.

An all too common cause of sleep difficulties in children is the increase of screen time and having screen-based devices in their room or access before bedtime – and certainly while they should be sleeping.

The blue light emitting from screen devices can cause disruptions in our natural sleep cycles. Limiting screen time during the day and especially before bedtime may help your child fall asleep quicker.

How Does Sleep Affect a Child’s Behavior?

Lack of sleep in children can affect them in a multitude of ways.

Children that don’t get enough sleep have poorer school performance. They have increased difficulties concentrating, poor memory and worse executive function skills – all impact learning.

Children with inadequate sleep can have modest levels of anxiety rise to clinically significant anxiety, requiring far more aggressive interventions. In addition, inadequate sleep makes treating pediatric anxiety, depression and ADHD far less effective until the sleep issues are addressed.

How important is sleep – Dr Monicino refers to “adequate” sleep as the MOST important medicine he uses to treat ADHD, anxiety and depression as well as learning disorders.

Children with inadequate sleep are also more likely to have a weaker immune system and are at greater risk for obesity and diabetes.

How to Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems

Sleep is crucial to your child’s health and development, so it is important to address these concerns as soon as possible.

Dr. Moncino’s 40 years of clinical experience show that adequate sleep is the foundational treatment of all behavioral disorders in children and teens.

Until adequate sleep has been addressed, no amount of therapy, medications or other behavioral interventions will be fully successful.

In fact, once we address sleep issues, we find that behavior problems, such as explosive outbursts, inattention, distraction and even anxiety, resolve in more than one quarter of children.

Getting help for your child is important for you and your family. Reach out today to get help from one of our trained professionals at GCADP.

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